A parking meter system that has helped reduce vehicle theft in a number of SA towns since it has been implemented could soon help police recover stolen cars.

A parking metre system that has helped reduce vehicle theft in a number of SA towns since it has been implemented could soon help police recover stolen cars.

Diversified Parking Systems (DPS) was started in Middelburg in 2000 and immediately helped cut the number of vehicles that have been stolen and theft from cars.

The system places old parking metres with handheld parking sets. Every time a motorist parks his vehicle in a parking bay, the registration number is punched into the hand-held set.

Once the motorist is ready to leave, his account for the duration of the time his vehicle was parked is calculated and the fee handed over to a guard. A percentage of the money received goes to each car guard, the company running the system and the city council. The motorist pays only for the parking time.

All the car guards have been checked to ensure they have no criminal records and completed basic security training and registered as security guards. “In high density areas, each car guard looks after seven or eight vehicles, while in lower density areas each guard looks after about 10 to 12 vehicles,” system originator Les Cass told CARtoday.com.

"The parking tariffs are set by the local town council or municipality so the motorist cannot be freely abused. The motorist now only has to pay one fee and not the informal car guard well as the old static parking meter," said Cass.

“Since we began this system vehicle theft in the Middelburg CBD has dropped drastically,” said Cass.

This is backed up by the police in the area. “We no longer need to police the CBD as intensely as we did in the past. The guards have gone beyond just looking after the cars in the parking area.

The guards are like a part of my team now and all of them have my cell number and contact me if they see anything suspicious. With their help we have the whole area covered and as a result there have been no stolen cars or theft from vehicles in the past six months,” said operations commander of crime prevention in Middelburg, Captain Moses Maepa.

The system has been implemented in 10 towns with 15 more ready to join soon. The system is used in Potchefstroom and Ladismith, while Grahamstown and Queenstown will begin using it in the next few months.

Cass said he got the idea when the municipality in Middelburg had to take out parking meters when the company making them closed down in 1999. He then designed the new parking system.

“We are now moving on to the next stage, which will involve linking the hand-held devices via GPRS connection to the database of stolen vehicles. Once the car guard types in the registration number, the system immediately crosschecks checking for stolen vehicles, plates that have been marked as false and duplicated cars. It also checks make and colour. If it has a possible match, a message is sent to the police station and they take it further,” said Cass.

“We are negotiating with the cellphone networks and looking at starting the next step in the second half of the year,” he said. “If we can reduce vehicle theft just a little bit it will definitely help,” Cass said.