City Council Considers Data Sharing To Locate Stolen Cars

Jul 29, 2015

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman proposed a resolution Tuesday that would create a data sharing system between the city and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to assist authorities in tracking down stolen or wanted vehicles.

“Right now our ticket enforcement officers could walk down the street, enter a license plate at a meter, write a parking ticket, and that car could either be stolen or wanted as part of an Amber Alert and they would have no idea,” he said.

Currently, the Parking Authority monitors license plates to discover if a vehicle is parked illegally or has any outstanding parking tickets within residential permit zones, Parking Authority lots and metered city streets. Gilman is proposing that enforcement officers also scan for stolen or wanted automobiles. If discovered, enforcers would send the license plate information, location of the vehicle, the date and the time to police.

“We do not want to put our officers who do our parking enforcement in any danger or try to take on a role that isn’t their responsibility,” Gilman said.

Gilman also said there should be no privacy concerns.

“We already have the data. We’re not taking any new data. We’re not expanding any programs," he said. “It’s simply adding two more checkboxes to a search that’s already occurring.”

Currently, all license plate data collected is stored for 24 hours by the Parking Authority, and this proposal wouldn’t change that policy.

Gilman called the proposal common sense, and said he was shocked to discover it didn’t exist yet.

“Imagine if your vehicle was stolen and you found out that the city of Pittsburgh issued a ticket to your stolen car while it was missing and didn’t do anything about it and how angry you would be as a person that the city could’ve recovered your vehicle and didn’t,” he said. “Or even worse, if your child was missing, there was a ‘be on the lookout’ alert for them and the city did nothing about it.”

Though this doesn’t occur daily, he said, but it does happen multiple times a year. Gilman said he wants to address the problem as soon as possible.

The resolution will likely come up for a vote in early September after council’s recess.