GR Parking will take bids for automated plate reader

A file image of an automated license plate reader on a Grand Rapids Police Department cruiser.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is moving forward with a controversial plan to use automated license plate readers to help with parking enforcement.

The city commission on Tuesday approved a plan from the Parking Services Department to get bids on an automated license plate reading system.

The city expects to buy just one scanner this year at a cost between $25,000 and $50,000. The goal is to have it on the streets by November.

The parking department says the system will allow it to more easily monitor the thousands of drivers who park in permit-only lots or use the Parkmobile smartphone app. License plates would be scanned by the automated system and cars in violation would be flagged.

For drivers who put coins in a meter, enforcement will still be done the old-fashioned way.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some community members are against the system. They worry about another agency collecting information on citizens.

But the city says only the Parking Services Department would have access to the data and that it would be stored only if it’s connected to a ticket.

“What we’re trying to do is automating an existing process that we’re already doing. So that it’s not really necessarily surveillance because we’re not surveilling anyone who is not already participating as a permit holder within our existing public parking system,” Mobile GR & Parking Services Manager Josh Naramore said.

The Grand Rapids Police Department already has an automated license plate reader system.