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New app allows you to earn cash by tattling on illegal parkers

Do you ever get frustrated when you see someone who isn’t disabled using a disabled parking space?  Have you ever wanted to say something, or teach them a lesson? Well, with a new app, you can do just that!  And the best part? You get paid for it.

The innovative idea is being trialled in Winnipeg and all it requires is the “spotsquad” app on your smartphone. Users download the app, and then use their phone to take photos of parking violations and upload them. If the violation results in a fine, then the person who reported it gets a cut of the profits. It’s not yet clear whether the parking authorities have agreed to this, but the founders are actively inviting people to “join our ranks” through the spotsquad website.               

Some people are skeptical about the use of vigilantism to control parking – after all, if you start incentivising citizens to inform on other citizens, where could it end?

One such cynic is Mack Marsh, project director for Parking Mobility – a Texas based scheme that uses a similar app to monitor disabled parking violations. He says “When the individual who reports a crime profits from the reporting of that crime, then that crime is no longer enforceable”. His company uses trained volunteers, rather than members of the public and their cut of the parking fee goes to charity rather than being personal profit. His website describes their system as “philanthropy multiplied”, emphasizing the charitable aspect of it, but essentially it’s the same idea. I doubt that most people using the Parking Mobility app are doing it to raise money for charity. They’re doing it in order to get revenge on ignorant drivers. Similarly, with spotsquad – the small financial reward isn’t likely to be the main motivator. It’ll be spite – or to put it more kindly, a sense of justice.

Parking Mobility shows that an app can work on a large scale, but the open nature of spotsquad and the financial gain have opened up what some describe as a “legal minefield”. The fact that the founders are keeping quiet about who has actually agreed to pay for this is another worrying sign, their website boasts about their start-up team of 10, and their app-building powers. But it skirts around the issue of whether the Winnipeg authorities have agreed to co-operate with the system or not. Apparently, some private parking lot owners are interested, but the laws governing private parking are different to those controlling on-street parking. You can see how it quickly becomes a lawyer’s nightmare. Eyebrows have also been raised at the military terminology used on the site – where enforcers start as a Private and move up to a General after 25 successful reports (Generals get “40% of the ticket/tow bounty”)

Something has to be done about people abusing disabled spaces, this is true. But, is hiring a load of untrained “troops” the way to do it? What do you think?


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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