Drivers angry about receiving parking tickets have a new reason to think twice before contesting citations: It's likely the parking control officer who wrote the ticket has photographic evidence of the infraction.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages parking in The City, issued a directive to its parking control officers July 10 mandating that they photograph most types of infractions, including blocking of driveways, parking on sidewalks, violating temporary and construction zone parking restrictions, failure to curb wheels on grades, and red- and blue-zone infractions.
Officers are encouraged to snap pictures of all other categories, according to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.
For several years, the technology that pairs a photograph with ticket information has been available on the mobile dispensing devices that officers carry, Rose said.
"We feel it's a logical progression in technology," he said. "People who in good faith don't believe they were in that driveway or parked on the sidewalk, we show them the photo and it provides clarity to the situation. And that saves San Francisco and the agency time and resources."
The ticket dispensers automatically upload all citation information, along with photos, to an SFMTA database, which stores the data for the life of the ticket. Rose said about 600 photos have been taken so far, and the agency would provide pictures and any other data to other law enforcement agencies if requested.
Cory Logan, the creator of DPTWatch.com, where people can post what they think are unfair parking tickets issued in San Francisco, said he supports the move.
He has no way of verifying the legitimacy of complaints posted on his site, but he's learned there are a lot of people who think they have been wrongly cited.
"I feel like it's a really good thing as long as the tech is actually being used for what it's supposed to be used for," Logan said. "I think it works in tandem with DPTWatch. We have the same goals."
The SFMTA has not seen a rise in tickets being contested, Rose said, and actually the number of citations issued has been steadily falling for years — from nearly 2 million in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2011, according to data from the City Controller's Office.
Navdeep Saini recently received a $74 parking ticket he believed to be unfair and took to Twitter to rant about the SFMTA's contesting process. Saini can no longer contest the ticket, he said, but he plans to double-check the restrictions where he received the citation.
If he's still convinced the ticket was issued unfairly, Saini said, he's going to post his story on DPTWatch.
"I don't have any pictures," Saini said. "It's just my word against the parking ticket officer."
However, it's likely that officer has the photo Saini needs.