Santa Monica College Streamlines Parking Enforcement

The SMC Board of Trustees approved a contract delegating parking management on campus to iParq, a cloud-based system, which will allow the campus police department to quickly scan license plates and cite vehicles without proper permits.

Currently, the process for checking permits and writing citations are all done manually, but the new system proposes to streamline the entire process, with students and faculty purchasing virtual permits in the school’s system. The police department will then utilize scanners to detect vehicles who are in violation of the rules and issue citations, which can be paid or appealed online.

This change will affect the more than 4,400 current parking spaces on campus, including the new spaces in the upcoming Student Services building and all satellite campuses. The contract will cost $440,000 over three years, with $250,000 of that being paid for by the KCRW foundation. It is estimated to be implemented within 12 to 18 months.

Interim Executive Vice-President Elaine Polachek brought the item to the school’s board of trustees during their meeting on Tuesday, April 3. “It’s really a great opportunity for us to work on a difficult project that the college has faced, which is managing its parking, it’s a scare resource,” Polacheck said.

Police chief Johnnie Adams serves as a part of the three-person committee who unanimously selected iParq over three other bids. “One of the things that it’s going to help us with is efficiency [and] when we get more efficient, we’re doing our jobs better and making fewer mistakes,” Adams said. Adams also explained that writing citations by hand have caused errors, so the system of issuing online citations will eliminate that.

While the contract was approved, several members of the board noted issues about potential security risks, though Adams assured it would be safer than the system currently in place. iParq, a vendor approved by the California Department of Justice, will encrypt the information. The college itself will retain personal information for about 60 days before being erased from the system unless that information is part of a criminal investigation.

As the board discussed the merits of changing the parking management, Trustee Dr. Nancy Greenstein wanted to emphasize that the school takes the safety of its students very seriously.

“Privacy is only as good as the people who are here to ensure it, so this system alone does not create more bad things, it’s the people who are managing it,” Greenstein said. “We’re going to have to trust you guys to manage it.”

Due to the sensitivity of the information involved, as iParq’s main intent is on permits if the vehicle has been marked as stolen or if it has been associated with a level one felony, then the dispatcher on duty will be notified. The only information other than proper permits given to iParq operators is the number of tickets accrued by the vehicle for impounding purposes.

Several schools have already been using a system such as this. Citrus College, Azuza Pacific University, and Contra Costa College were several mentioned in a presentation during the meeting. Trustee Rob Rader said that Pepperdine University, where he teaches, also uses a similar system.

“We’re probably running behind the curve on this, [..] I don’t know that it makes a lot of sense for us to do all this manually,” Rader said.

Parking decals cost $85 during the fall and spring semester and $45 during the summer and winter sessions, but a recent change to the academic regulation on campus will allow students who can show financial need to receive reduced rates.