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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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But can the MPD 'autoChalk' vehicles read bumper stickers?
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The autoChalk: It knows when you've been parking.
The autoChalk: It knows when you've been parking.
Credit:David Woolf

Perhaps you've seen them. The Madison Police Department's parking enforcement team recently began using vehicles with space-age scanners on their bumpers and roofs.

The two vehicles, acquired by the city at a cost of $130,075, including laptops to support the system, let parking enforcers scan parked cars while whizzing by at up to 25 miles per hour. They eliminate the need to mark vehicles' tires with chalk when enforcing time-restricted parking, as in two-hour zones.

But the "autoChalk" vehicles have capabilities beyond parking enforcement, confirms Stefanie Niesen, the MPD's parking enforcement supervisor. The scanners can also "check for stolen autos and any auto we may be looking for."

For now, this capability is not being used. Niesen first wants to get a sense of how well the autoChalks autochalk. "Our plan is to spend a couple of months at least getting used to the system."

The Parking Enforcement Team has 30 fulltime employees, six of whom cover areas where chalking is the norm. Writing actual tickets still takes as much time with the autoChalk as before, but, Niesen says "we've definitely seen an increase in the amount of area we can cover."

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