'Out of order': Vancouver sees increase in parking meter vandalism, thefts
VANCOUVER - Drivers have grown accustomed to seeing the words "fail" and "out of order" on parking meter screens in Vancouver. The city's seen a 10 per cent increase in out-of-order meters in the past year.
At least 500 of Vancouver's 11,500 parking meters are broken at any given time, and technology's not to blame. The meters are being sabotaged by thieves.
"They'll do this not to one meter, or two meters – sometimes it's 10, 20, 50 meters in a large area. They'll plug the meters with obstructions so when people come along to park they put their coins in the meter and the coin won't drop down," said Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department.
"Whoever's jammed it will come along and fish it out with a paper clip or a magnet or something like that."
The vandalism and theft costs the city parking revenue, and can also be costly for drivers who don't realize they'll be ticketed for parking at a broken meter.
"Maybe they've driven around the block for half an hour trying to find a spot. So they've lost a loonie or a toonie, and they're like, 'I'm not going to try to find another spot, I'll walk away and chance it.' Well, when they return to their car they have a parking ticket," said Addison.
Crews are out checking meters seven days a week, and try to fix broken ones within 24 hours of finding them. But the city needs help, and is urging the public to report parking meters that aren't working by calling 311 or on the VanConnect app.
Addison also recommends drivers install the Pay by Phone app on their phones, because even jammed meters will work when parking is paid on the app.
"You not only avoid the hassle of trying to find change to pay for your meter, you can thwart the attempts of these thieves jamming the meters, putting them out of business."
Police say here's one more way the public can help them put a stop to the vandalism: pay attention and report suspicious activity around parking meters.
"Quite frankly, it's not a sophisticated crime to commit, and it's not a difficult crime to solve if people call us and let us know it's happening so we can do something about it.," said Addison.