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Parking enforcement erases chalking of tires, begins taking photos

WALLA WALLA, Washington – While it’s not illegal in Washington state to mark tires with chalk to enforce parking rules in public areas, the Walla Walla Police Department is erasing the practice.  Instead, WWPD’s parking enforcement officer will be taking a digital photo.

WWPD Chief Scott Bieber explained the decision came following a recent ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals which said marking tires to enforce parking rules is like entering property without a search warrant and violates the Fourth Amendment.

The ruling came after Alison Taylor received more than a dozen $15 tickets for exceeding the two-hour parking limit in Saginaw, Michigan where the city marks tires with chalk to keep track of how long a vehicle is parked.  Taylor’s lawyer argued that a parking patrol officer violated the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed saying the purpose of marking tires was to “raise revenue,” not to protect the public against a safety risk.  The decision set a new standard for Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, the states covered by the 6th Circuit.

“Although we are in the 9th Circuit, our legal advice is to discontinue chalking tires at this point based on the high likelihood we would face a similar suit,” Bieber said.  “Our (WWPD) parking enforcement officer is using digital photos to establish probable cause for the violations at this point.”

Bieber said to his knowledge, there is no court ruling banning digital photography for enforcing parking rules when a vehicle is parked in a public area.  He added the WWPD is reviewing its options.

One option, Bieber explained, is an Automated License Plate Reader that automatically captures the information necessary as the parking enforcement vehicle drives past.

“As you might imagine, this technology is somewhat expensive, $50,000 to $60,000, to completely outfit our parking enforcement vehicle,” Bieber said.

Bieber added that on a positive side, taking digital photos is much more efficient than chalking tires which allows the parking enforcement officer time to move out into residential areas to cite violators.

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