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Austin Peay State University Public Safety going green with new License Plate recognition software

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – On a cold, rainy afternoon in late February, a Nissan Leaf with cameras mounted to the roof moved silently through the Austin Peay State University (APSU) campus. When the electric vehicle passed a group of students, they paused beneath umbrellas to watch the strange-looking car.

Austin Peay State University’s Office of Public Safety is using cameras to read license plates, doing away with the need for hang tags. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University’s Office of Public Safety is using cameras to read license plates, doing away with the need for hang tags. (APSU)

“We’re starting to get questions about the gray Nissan with the white things on top,” Michael Kasitz, APSU assistant vice president of public safety, said. “We want them to know this is a new sustainability effort by the parking office. We bought an electric car, and we’re not buying plastic parking permits anymore. Next fall, we’re getting rid of paper tickets.”

This spring, the Austin Peay State University’s Office of Public Safety, which oversees campus parking, is slowly unveiling its new license plate recognition software, allowing the office to be more efficient and reduce the amount of waste it produces a year.

“We are doing away with hangtags, which is awesome because that means no more waiting in line at the beginning of the semester for students, no more waiting for parking to mail hangtags to faculty and staff. It’s just automatic,” Kasitz said. “Now, we can drive through a parking lot and scan every license plate in it. When we get to the end of the lot, we start confirming the plates. If there’s a violation, we just hit ticket and it’ll email them a ticket later on that night.”

The office is testing the software this spring, and for the system to work, most people driving to campus must pull forward into a parking space so the cameras can read a vehicle’s license plate. There are a few exceptions, however.

“If you come from a state with two plates, that’s fine because the front plate is the same as the rear plate,” Kasitz said. “But if you don’t have that and you still want to back in or pull through the space to where you can easily get out, we have special plates for the front of your car. Those cost $10.00 each, but you don’t have to buy it every year. They’re good for as long as you’re registered in our system.”

Previously, students, faculty and staff registered a vehicle with public safety to obtain a plastic parking permit, but while testing the software this spring, Kasitz said they’ve found several instances of people logging the wrong license plate numbers into the system. To make sure every valid vehicle is properly identified, members of the APSU community need to register their vehicle at apsu.t2hosted.com.

Regardless of whether a vehicle is in the system, once its license plate is scanned by the Nissan Leaf’s cameras, APSU Public Safety officers will know where that car or truck is parked. 

“We can do occupancy counts, knowing how full or empty parking lots are,” he said. “Every year, we have people misplace their cars. They report them stolen to us, but they just forgot where they parked that day. We could actually put the license plate number into the system and see if it was scanned that day and where it was scanned. It ties it with GPS.”

Kasitz said the new technology will allow his office to cover more of the campus’ parking lots with fewer people, while also providing improved customer service for anyone who parks on campus.

“We don’t want to make money,” he said. “We want to alter behavior. When you come to work or class, you expect to be able to park where you’re supposed to park, and you get angry when there are people that don’t have permits or have a wrong permit in your zone. This provides you with the customer service you expect.”          

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