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This year’s city sticker could be your last

Evanston officials are considering eliminating city vehicle registration and parking stickers and enforcing parking rules with mobile cameras that can read license plates.

A license plate recognition camera mounted on a police car (ELSAG North America photo).

Evanston officials are considering eliminating city vehicle registration and parking stickers and enforcing parking rules with mobile cameras that can read license plates.

A license plate recognition camera mounted on a police car (ELSAG North America photo).

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons told the Transportation and Parking Committee Wednesday that staff plans a one-day trip to Pittsburgh next month where such a system is already in operation to learn how well the cameras work in identifying parked cars whose owners have failed to pay for city stickers or have unpaid parking tickets.

Lyons says the new system could end long lines at the Civic Center when residents show up to pick up stickers in January and then apply them to their car windows in the cold.

Instead, Evanstonians could initially register their vehicles online and have recurring charges for the vehicles automatically billed to a credit card.

He says the city would save the cost of sending out registration forms and manually processing them.

In a memo, the city’s parking manager, Rickey Voss, said, "We envision this program will not necessarily have an increase or decrease in revenues" but will "increase compliance and reduce late fees, tickets and other fines."

A vendor of the license plate recognition system that the city is considering, ELSAG North America Law Enforcement Systems, paints a much more aggressive picture of the equipment on its website, claiming that New Haven, Conn., has collected "millions in back taxes and penalties" from its system. 

The company also stresses the potential use of such systems to help locate stolen vehicles and even catch drug dealers. 

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the new system could be convenient for people who move in or out of town during the year, if it let them pay vehicle registration fees quarterly.

And Lyons said simplifying the registration process should reduce the number of unregistered cars in the city.

Lyons says that if the system looks promising, after the planned site visit to Pittsburgh, it may be possible — if the City Council approves — to have the new system in place by the end of the year — which could make this year’s vehicle stickers the last on Evanston cars.

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