Controversial parking enforcement scanners to come to Namur

Controversial parking enforcement scanners to come to Namur
Credit: Belga

So-called “scan-cars”, vehicles fitted with automatic number plate recognition cameras aimed at automatically fining locals for improperly parking their cars, will be rolled out in Namur this summer, according to Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

Equipped with 360-degree cameras, this new onboard computer processes up to 1,200 vehicles per hour and checks licence plates against parking registers. The vehicles are already infamous in cities such as Brussels, Liège, Charleroi, and La Louvière.

In Brussels alone, the vehicles were credited with massive increases in parking fine revenue for the Regional Government.

“The development of parking control by scanner vehicles, as well as better monitoring of the collection of royalties…increased the agency’s turnover from €28,624,757 in 2019 to €42,751,758 in 2020, an increase of 49.4%,” parking.brussels announced last year.

However, the use of these vehicles remains highly controversial. The parking enforcement system utilises very little human oversight, meaning the software often does not take mitigating factors into account, doling fines out arbitrarily.

In 2020, nearly 1.2 million fines were issued in Brussels across 10 municipalities. In a separate interview with RTBF, Brussels deputy Françoise Schepmans stated that areas that used the vehicles saw up to three times more fines issued.

The scan-cars do not issue violation tickets, meaning that it is often hard to know if you have been fined at all. 278,000 fines were collected by bailiffs in just one year, according to parking.brussels’ annual report.

“Since the scan-car obviously does not issue a fee ticket, the driver doesn’t realise that he received a fine until the day he discovers a fine in his mailbox, which is sometimes sent late,” the deputy said.

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The deputy also complained that little had been done to compensate for the reduction of on-street parking across the city, especially in highly populated areas in the north-west of the city.

The use of scan-cars has even been proven to be discriminatory.

On 13 May, a Brussels court ruled that the Brussels-Capital Region’s Parking Agency, parking.brussels, must alter its practices after it concluded that the vehicles had indirectly discriminated against people with a disability.

The cameras mounted on the vehicles failed to recognise disabled parking badges and permits, thereby issuing numerous unjustified fines to Belgians who were parked legally.

With the arrival of ‘scan-cars’ in several cities, several mobility organisations denounced that “the solutions proposed do not make it possible to avoid the undue sending of fines to holders of the European card for disabled parking.”

In Brussels, the parking enforcement agency has been asked to alter its practices within four months. It remains unclear whether the technology has been modified to avoid giving fines to disabled drivers in Namur.


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