LINDEN — Visitors to the downtown area of this Union County city will soon have more eyes watching where they park and for how long.

The Linden Police Department announced on Thursday that "safety sticks" are being installed at five locations downtown to help combat illegal parking in restricted areas, such as near fire hydrants and crosswalks.

The devices are designed to alert a parking enforcement officer when a vehicle is stopped in an unauthorized spot for too long. The officer would then review the evidence and determine whether a ticket is warranted.

"There's a lot of illegal parking and it causes a very dangerous situation, for pedestrians especially, and it leads to a lot of traffic backups that we're trying to avoid," Linden Police Capt. Christopher Guenther told New Jersey 101.5.

Deployment of the 4-foot-tall columns was approved by City Council in June. Installation is underway along parts of North Wood Avenue and West Blancke and East Price streets.

According to Police Chief David Hart, the technology has reduced violations by as much as 95% in other areas.

How do safety sticks work?

Intersection of N. Wood Ave. and W. Blancke St. in Linden (Google Street View)
Intersection of N. Wood Ave. and W. Blancke St. in Linden (Google Street View)

The solar-powered devices can sense when a vehicle enters a restricted zone. But, according to Guenther, the safety sticks will only flag a vehicle when it's been in the off-limits spot for at least 90 seconds. At that point, the device will capture the vehicle's license plate data and send the information to an officer for review.

Tickets would be issued through the mail, based on a vehicle's registration information.

"If you don't park in these restricted areas, there's no tickets, and that's our goal," Guenther said.

Linden didn't take on any upfront costs for the devices. Instead, the company behind the product, MPS Intelligence Infrastructure, gets $14 of every $55 violation.

The devices should be up and running in the coming weeks, but tickets are not expected to be issued until early October.

"Our goal is to change driver behavior, so we want people to get familiar with how the system works before we start issuing tickets," Hart said.

Safety sticks may be placed in additional areas, depending on the effectiveness of the program.

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