BOISE -- Have you spotted a white Toyota Prius with cameras cruising around downtown Boise and wondered what it is?
It's a high-tech parking enforcement car and it detects and takes pictures of license plates in certain parking zones, making it easier to enforce parking and write tickets.
The City of Boise says it's saving time, money and resources.
"This is the license plate recognition vehicle that we're using. These are the cameras that actually read the license plate," City of Boise Mobility Project Coordinator Tyler Johnson said as he showed KTVB the car.
Two cameras on top of the car for license plate detection, plus two cameras to snap photos of a car's tires and wheels. Inside the vehicle is a tablet with a software system that runs everything and is hooked up to an antenna and GPS on top of the car.
"That's how it knows exactly where the vehicle is and also gets the 4G data from Verizon," Johnson added.
The Prius, which was already in the city's vehicle fleet, was converted to a high-tech detective in March. It's driven around Zone Three two-hour enforcement parking areas downtown as well as some residential streets because many cars have begun parking in those areas.
The driver of the camera car checks back every two hours during the day and if the detector finds the car is breaking the rules, it finds the previous picture and alerts him.
"I check the pictures, make sure they all match up. Once I've accepted that it's a valid ticket and hasn't moved, I hit accept," the driver told KTVB.
But he doesn't typically stop and give out the ticket; pictures and information on the car then go to the device of the enforcement officer who covers that area.
"What we normally would do in the past is we would chalk tires, make photos, chalk next to the stem on the tire," City of Boise Administrative Services Manager Craig Croner said.
Croner says that would take about three to five minutes per car, meaning in a block face of 10 cars, it would take up to 50 minutes.
"This new technology allows that vehicle to go there and do the same task in about 10 to 20 seconds," Croner added.
He tells us the city hasn't had to hire or fire anyone with this technology.
"This is one area where we've implemented technology as opposed to implementing personnel," Croner said.
It's saving the city money by cutting man hours and allowing parking enforcement officers to cover more ground more efficiently, Croner says, as the city's parking districts and management system grows.
The system alerts them to people who have outstanding unpaid tickets, or whose cars should be impounded; the high-tech car serving as a tool that the city believes helps discourage lawbreakers and encourage parking spot turnover.
"This is another tool we're utilizing to help us cut down on the amount of unpaid parking tickets," Croner added. "It's really creating opportunities for people to find available parking spots in downtown Boise without having a whole lot of issues to do that."
Because technology isn't perfect, there is always someone checking everything. For example, if a car has a parking permit and is allowed to park in that spot all day, the person running the car knows that and can void the alert. On scene, an enforcement officer always verifies the car hasn't moved before giving a ticket.