Multi-storey car park with a barrier-free parking system to prevent car park fraud
Barrier-free parking enables monitoring and charging payments via the use of ANPR cameras

The incidence and value of car park fraud continues to increase year on year, with car park operators reporting several millions of pounds in lost annual revenue. On and off-street parking are significant sources of revenue and as it is mainly cash income it is a high risk area susceptible to fraud.

Siemens has developed barrier-free parking as a revolutionary way of preventing this fraud. The system also offers speed and efficiency of parking through the use of automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR), fully integrated with sophisticated payment systems via a powerful software engine.

There are a variety of parking systems in use across the UK, including parking metres, barrier or attendant pay on entry, pay at exit barrier or attendant and ‘Pay and Display' car parks. Examples of fraud or parking "scams" include tailgating in and out of ‘Pay on Foot' car parks, where cars are driven closely behind another vehicle, or keeping the barrier in a raised position via the road loops in the ground, resulting in parking for free.

Pay and Display car parks are particularly vulnerable to fraud. Motorists fail to purchase a ticket and park for free, or outstay the value of the ticket, or pass an unexpired ticket to another driver. The public generally prefers the swiftness of a Pay and Display car park, perceiving that access and parking are quicker without barrier-control. All types of parking involve the collection and handling of substantial amounts of cash. Fraud in many town centre car parks can be substantial because of the high level of turnover. The main fraud risks are theft of takings with and without manipulation of records, recycling of tickets and inadequate control of tickets and security keys.

Barrier-free parking enables the car park owner or operator to monitor and charge the correct payments by installing ANPR cameras, eliminating the need for conventional barriers. As the vehicle enters the car park, its number plate is read and logged via carefully sited ANPR cameras. On the rare occasion where the number plate is not read by the first ANPR camera it will be picked up by additional ANPR cameras strategically sited within the car park.

 Siemens is a market leading provider of innovative and customised security systems
The ANPR cameras also have the capability to alert the operator if a repeat offender is in the car park so that action can be taken

Car parking and payment is often a source of stress and frustration for motorists. Barrier-free parking improves the customer experience by eliminating bottlenecks of traffic as there is no need for barrier-control. It makes payment quick and easy too. The system offers a choice of four flexible payment methods including cash-less vending, combining the move towards pay-as-you-go payment schemes and the convenience of online booking and mobile phone payments for season tickets or Pay and Display. This lowers the opportunity for theft from the ticket machines and saves labour costs, as the machines do not need to be emptied so frequently.

In addition, motorists will experience less frustration, no longer having to wait to collect a ticket, or queue to pay, and be stuck in a traffic jam to get in or out of the car park. Siemens barrier-free parking will cut down car park congestion, keeping traffic fluid and contributing to town or city traffic management.

As the vehicle exits the car park, the ANPR cameras will read the number plate again and the car park fee is automatically checked by the system against the ticket purchased. If it is apparent that there is a shortfall or non-purchase of a ticket, the system will create a contravention report for underpayment or non-payment, detailing arrival and departure times. The report will include views of the car entering and exiting the car park. The car park operator can immediately issue a fine. The barrier-free parking system can be linked to the DVLA database which enables the contravention to be posted directly to the car owner's address. The ANPR cameras also have the capability to alert the operator if a repeat offender is in the car park so that action can be taken.

Dave Pickles, managing director security solutions at Siemens comments: "Initial trials at one car park revealed that 15% of customers were either not paying or underpaying. Our system analysis showed that there was a far higher contravention rate than originally predicted by the operator, representing a significant potential loss across the client's 100-strong estate. Siemens barrier-free parking can not only prevent fraud but can also be used to enhance customer recognition schemes to encourage loyalty for long term users."

The barrier-free reporting system can provide trend analysis, such as car park "hot spots", who parks where and for how long, and can highlight persistent offenders. A yield analysis informs car park owners which payment systems are the most popular with motorists. These findings will enable operators to benchmark service delivery and offer continual improvement.

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