New app could let citizens report illegal parking, get cut of fine
Published Sunday, June 16, 2013 1:56PM EDT
The next time you're thinking about idling in an accessible parking area without a permit or parking in front of a fire hydrant in Winnipeg, you might do well to reconsider.
A new app called SpotSquad could soon pay people to report you to authorities.
The concept is simple, says Chris Johnson, co-founder of the app: when someone sees a parking violation, they simply need to open up the app on their smartphone, upload a photo, choose the type of infraction and submit it - the photo is then sent to regional parking authorities who can dispatch a ticket warden.
If the tip results in a fine, tipsters get a cut deposited into their bank accounts or donated to their favourite charities - as much as 10 or 20 per cent, says Johnson.
The group haven't yet struck any deals but say they're open to working with municipalities and private parking lot operators.
"We're open to having conversations anywhere where there's parking that needs to be controlled," Johnson told CTVNews.ca.
So, how many people would be willing to snitch on their fellow citizen's poor parking? More than you might expect, said Johnson.
Based on the amount of people who have already created SpotSquad accounts, he thinks there's going to be "lots of people who want to do this."
"We're getting the feeling this is the kind of thing everyone (is going to want to have) on their phone but no one admits to."
A similar app already exists in the U.S.
Texas-based Parking Mobility runs a program that allows trained volunteers to take photos of cars parked in disabled spots. Rewards are paid out to charities or parking offender rehabilitation programs.
The program works because the organization has spent years negotiating agreements with police departments and cities, Mack Marsh, the group's project director, told the Canadian Press.
The group has also launched a pilot project in Vancouver but results have been disappointing, Marsh said.
Unlike in the U.S., tipsters are prohibited from reporting on violations made on private property.
The Canadian app, SpotSquad, could open up a legal minefield, according to a Winnipeg lawyer specializing in privacy and social media law.
Public sector workers who do similar work are bound by privacy laws, lawyer Brian Bowman told CTV Winnipeg. That wouldn't be the case with this app.
"You are empowering citizens and paying them to arguably act as an agent for you," he said.
With files from CTV Winnipeg's Alesia Fieldberg