Farmville Police look to crack down on illegal parking around town

Published 1:50 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2023

FARMVILLE – Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington has heard the complaints. People park their cars in fire lanes at restaurants, at grocery stores and even on the road, right next to an intersection. 

“You know when you park in front of a fire hydrant, what potentially can happen,” Ellington said. “The fire department comes and it has consequences.” 

To prevent those consequences, and to deter illegal parking in town, Ellington wants to use some cutting-edge technology. He presented the proposal during the Wednesday, Aug. 2 meeting of the Farmville Town Council. 

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The SafetyStick, created by Municipal Parking Services Inc. (MPS) Intelligence Infrastructure, is a four-foot-tall, solar-powered camera designed to catch illegally parked cars for the purpose of “increasing safety in your city by eliminating dangerous traffic behaviors,” according to an MPS Solutions article. 

How does it work?

The SafetyStick, which would be installed by the company free of charge, would be placed at various sites where the Farmville Police Department (FPD) receives many complaints of illegal parking, such as fire hydrants, fire lanes and bus stops. 

The device has a built-in camera to detect cars that park illegally, then starts a two-minute timer once the vehicle is detected. After the two-minute grace period – allowed for drop offs or temporary halts – the camera will start to capture an image of the vehicle and will then create a parking violation.

At the end of the day, the violations the SafetyStick accumulates would be downloaded to the cloud and will be sent to MPS. The company then would review the violations to make sure there is a clear image and unrestricted view of the vehicle’s tags and other identifying markers before sending the violation over to the police department the next day.

Once the police department receives the violations, they would review it themselves, stamp the approval and mail the citation out to the violator. 

“I will have to assign somebody to view it to make sure it’s a legit ticket, (that) it’s not a rescue squad unit or police car or somebody,” Chief Ellington said.

Farmville Police consider locations

Chief Ellington described many places the SafetySticks could be located due to various complaints. He highlighted  the liquor stores and vape shops as common places where people like to leave their cars, though the police department would need permission from shop owners of shopping centers and private property to install the devices. Cars parked too close to intersections would also be caught by the camera.

“Down here on Main Street, in front of the old AIG building, back when my wife used to work there, she used to call me repeatedly: ‘People are parking in front of the fire hydrant.’ That would be a great place to put one,” Chief Ellington said.

The chief also described the Longwood Center for Visual Arts as a site that receives constant illegal parking and told the council he would demonstrate the SafetyStick to Longwood University for them to consider for campus installation as well. 

For those who tend to park their cars in fire lanes at restaurants or grocery stores to make a quick trip inside, the SafetyStick will put a stop to it. 

Stipulations for Farmville Police

While Chief Ellington listed many pros of the SafetyStick, he also made the council aware of a few conditions of the company.

For each parking violation, MPS receives 40% of the fine. FPD would have 90 days from the day they mail out the violation or issue the summons to recoup the costs, but if they do not receive the payment from the violator after those 90 days are up, they would still be obligated to compensate MPS. Chief Ellington countered this stipulation by stating FPD has a “pretty good track record of collecting parking violations.”

In addition to receiving 40% from every citation, MPS also requires that they make $140 each month, though it was not clear from the meeting whether that $140 comes from each device or is a stipend. If MPS does not collect $140 each month, the company will either remove the SafetySticks – again, free of charge – or move them to other areas.

Chief Ellington specified that these parking violations can cost $100 or more depending on the violation, so the council concluded that a few violations would be enough to reach the $140 mark every month. 

What happens next? 

Now since this was a work session, no votes were taken and no decisions made. Chief Ellington commented that he has a few sites in mind to test out the device and wants a handful of SafetySticks to get started. With the company requiring no cost to request, ship or install the devices, as well as no limit on how many FPD can request, the demonstration of the SafetyStick gathered enough interest from the council for them to draw up a resolution for approval at their next meeting.