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Parking meter cameras to be trained on thieves

Big Brother may—or may not—be watching you from Richmond’s City Centre streets.

Plagued by vandalism to city parking meters, city hall’s bylaws department is working with the Richmond RCMP to install cameras inside meters, The Richmond Review has learned.

“Over the past couple years we’ve had many parking meters vandalized, so this was an effort working with the RCMP to try to identify potential culprits,” said city spokesperson Ted Townsend.

But details are scarce from city hall, which is “uncomfortable” with providing more details of the program, lest the perpetrators learn officials’ surveillance tactics.

Thieves have long vandalized meters for coins, and last November two meters were completely stolen from city streets. Police later located the meters in a deserted warehouse, according to the bylaws department.

The city is also testing new methods of reinforcing the meters. It’s a tactic that may be working. No incidents of meter vandalism or theft were reported in December—the first clean month since early 2011, according to a report from bylaws manager Wayne Mercer.

In 2010, vandals contributed to a 16-per-cent drop in parking revenue, which totalled $430,760 that year. According to the city “less than 10” meters were vandalized that year.

Vandals are showing no particular pattern in targeting meters—some are in “out-of-the-way locations” and others are on City Centre streets.

Meters have built-in security features to prevent theft of coins, so vandals resort to damaging the machines and remove coins one at a time.

Repair costs can average $1,500 per machine, and meter revenue can drop as much as $100 per day when a meter is out of order. The actual theft of coins is minimal.

On-street pay parking costs up to $2.50 per hour from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily in the downtown core.

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