Getting an Auto Boost
Private university gets help with its 60 parking lots
- By Chris Yigit
- August 01, 2019
Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah,
was established in 1875, and has since grown to
become the second largest private university and
largest religious-sponsored institution in the United
States. The school lies 45 miles south of Salt Lake
City and sits on approximately 560 acres at the base of the Wasatch
Mountains. The university serves 32,000 undergraduate students,
around 7,000 of whom reside on campus, and an additional 5,000
members of faculty and staff.
BYU takes its responsibility to provide a secure environment for students,
staff and visitors very seriously and is particularly conscientious
about maintaining order on its vast campus while still remaining
unobtrusive. With 60 parking lots totaling around 17,000 spaces,
and 65,000 vehicles registering for parking permits each semester,
maintaining control over the campus from a parking perspective is
no small feat. For BYU, parking management initiatives are a security
feature, helping to keep campus inhabitants safe. Finding ways to
manage such a large volume of vehicles while still providing userfriendly
parking facilities is a significant challenge for BYU’s parking
Until recently, BYU employed a stickered permitting system for
the vast majority of campus parking needs. Students and faculty came
to the parking office each year and registered their single vehicles to
park in certain areas or lot types. They then received a non-transferable
adhesive decal, displaying an expiration date, to place on their
vehicle. To accommodate visitors, attendants in designated parking
lots provided visitor placards to be placed in vehicles for the duration
of their stay. Handhelds were used by the parking enforcement team
to issue citations for parking infractions, which were downloaded to
the central database when the officers returned at the end of a shift.
At two gates, which control vehicle access to the most central
portion of the BYU campus, RFID cards were issued to allow a subset
of permitted vehicles to trigger the gate to open. Unfortunately,
the cards had a high failure rate, based in large part on their windshield
placement, which would expose them to extreme temperatures
and eventually ruin them. For each failure, the RFID card
replacement cost the university around $30. This process was both
inefficient and costly.
Steve Goodman, technology architect and manager of the communications
center for BYU’s police department, worked with a BYU business analyst and a police lieutenant (who sponsored the project) to
find a better solution.
With a varied array of parking paradigms, including both zoned
and timed parking, as well as the need to tie into gate control, BYU
began to look into license plate recognition (LPR) systems that might
aid in pulling solutions to all of these needs under one platform. They
were also specifically interested in finding a solution that had a backend
for analyzing the license plate data that was collected, which
would alleviate the need to develop a proprietary system from scratch
for this purpose.
Goodman conducted thorough research on 26 manufacturers with
license plate recognition solutions, and the project team even made
several visits to college campuses in search of the latest technology.
Eventually, the university management team decided on Genetec
AutoVu, the license plate recognition system within the unified security
platform, Security Center.
The software can be installed in two main license plate recognition
applications. One option involves using AutoVu LPR cameras in a
fixed installation, where the LPR cameras are mounted at entrances
and gates to monitor passing vehicles, either to restrict access to a
certain area or for vehicle tracking and auditing. The other option
involves an LPR camera mounted on a patrol vehicle which scans
the license plates of parked automobiles on both sides of the vehicle
as it drives by. The solution then processes the information and
alerts operators of infractions by triggering an alarm from a tablet
inside the cab.
Rollout of the solution initially consisted of four cameras, split
between these options. One fixed Sharp camera was placed on each of
the two central gates to seamlessly control vehicle access without
RFID cards, and one patrol vehicle was outfitted with a mobile AutoVu
solution including two cameras positioned on either side of the
vehicle. Later, additional fixed cameras were added to the perimeter
of campus to scan license plates purely as a security measure, allowing
the data to be mined after the fact, and allowing the AutoVu system
to alarm on scofflaw, banned vehicles or vehicles tagged in the
NCIC national database.
Finally, more fixed cameras were added to parking lot access
points. All in all, the system now includes five gates controlled by the
AutoVu system with five fixed Sharp cameras installed throughout
the campus for investigation and hotlist monitoring purposes, and
two patrol vehicles outfitted with the mobile solution. The two central
gate controlling cameras limit vehicle access to the portion of campus
with the highest amount of traffic in order help to alleviate congestion
and make the area more pedestrian friendly; only service and faculty
vehicles are allowed to enter this area. Another fixed camera controls
access to a service vehicle parking lot.
The BYUPD manages a list of service vehicles permitted in this lot
and enters them into the AutoVu exemption database as needed.
Another fixed camera controls access to one of the visitor parking
lots, which is also manned by an attendant. The final camera controls
access to an enclosed parking structure to eliminate the need for
patrol vehicles to monitor that lot.
The university has three designated visitor lots, which are each
manned by attendants who collectively handle more than 300,000
annual campus visitors. The parking enforcement vehicles sweep
these lots to ensure no permitted vehicles have taken a space simply
out of convenience. Other than the parking lot dedicated to service
vehicles, the remaining lots are reserved for one permit type (student
(Y), graduate (G) or faculty (A) parking), contain a mix of stalls for
various permit types, or are designated for on-campus housing only.
Some lots have service stalls, or O stalls for officials (such as deans
and presidents), and most have handicapped and delivery stalls as
well. Finally, a small percentage of BYU’s spaces are timed stalls, designated
for 15 or 30 minutes, and do not require the parked vehicle to
be permitted or entered in the exemption database.
The AutoVu-mounted vehicles manage all of these variations in
parking parameters and cycle through close to 60 parking lots several
times a day. Officers select the type of zone they are patrolling at
any given time, and the system scans surrounding plates and alerts
the officers to any vehicle that is unauthorized or has exceeded its
allowable time. In addition to monitoring lists of student and faculty
permits, and service and visitor exemptions, AutoVu maintains a hotlist
of vehicles that have been banned from the campus or are of interest
to law enforcement.
“We have been able to expand our coverage to include areas that
we previously might have only been able to check every few months,”
Goodman said. “We are also much better organized in our enforcement
Officers ticket vehicles that park in excess of their allotted time or
in stalls for which they are not permitted. Tickets typically run
between $20 and $30 and, “are meant more to maintain order than to
pull in revenue for the school,” Goodman said.
BYU uses a ticketing system called CiteWrite, which was developed
by Cambio Labs, a nearby website and mobile app development
firm. CiteWrite ties into the AutoVu database, pulling data like the
name of the vehicle owner to speedily auto-fill ticket fields. The software
can run with the AutoVu Patroller software in the patrol vehicles,
as well as on BlackBerry and Android phones, allowing officers
to quickly and easily issue tickets even if they are without a patrol
vehicle. This is particularly helpful for BYU’s police officers, who do
not currently use AutoVu-enabled cruisers. Citations can then be
printed with any Bluetooth-enabled printer.
“The citations also automatically show up in the vehicle owner’s
account online, and can be reviewed and paid as quickly as same-day,
instead of requiring a visit to the parking office,” Goodman said. “The
students really like this—they can get it taken care of and off their
plate immediately instead of having to wait.”
Since incorporating AutoVu, BYU’s permitting system has been
greatly simplified. Instead of requiring students and faculty to physically
show up at the parking office and apply for a sticker each semester,
permitting can now be applied for online. Stickers are no longer
required, as permitted vehicles are simply entered into the exemption
database. In addition to streamlining the system, BYU no longer has
to deal with replacement sticker requests. Moreover, the AutoVu system is tied into BYU’s proprietary persons’ database, which keeps
track of the status of all students and faculty at the university.
Because of this, re-applying for permits each semester is no longer
necessary. Once granted, the permit remains valid until a person’s
status changes. For example, a student who graduates will automatically
have their Y permit revoked. However, a graduate student who
becomes a member of the faculty will automatically have their permit
status changed from G to A. In this way, the permitting system can be
largely automated, reducing administration needs and greatly
enhancing the experience for students and faculty.
Additionally, the Shared Permit function has provided an additional
advantage. For a person who frequently drives more than one
vehicle, permits can now be tied to several vehicles, and the system
ensures that only one of those vehicles is parked on the campus at any
This also allows for temporary additions to permit accounts, for
example in the case of a rental car.
“Transitioning to a powerful LPR platform requires a shift in
thinking and implementation, but the advantages greatly outweigh
the challenges,” Goodman said. “It has increased the speed with
which the officers can conduct patrols, and is imperative for a campus
with so many lots to cover.
BYU has also paved the way for painless expansion of their system,
as well as the ability to simply transition access control operations
and existing video surveillance equipment onto the platform in order
to create synergies between various security initiatives.
“A colleague recently said to me, ‘Your system really works. I’ve
never seen the enforcement vehicle all the way up here before.’ We
have been able to expand our coverage to include areas that we previously
might have only been able to check every few months,” Goodman
said. “We’re also much better organized in our enforcement now.”
Because Security Center is a scalable and open platform, the university
is able to leave this consolidation option open without needing
to alter their current development path or purchase all new
equipment at once. BYU also is able to capitalize on AutoVu’s backend
client within Security Center. Pictures that correlate with citations
are easily located when disputes arise. The accumulated data
also is used for analysis, for example in determining low-flow trends
during certain hours in faculty lots. Because the faculty lots are generally
most conveniently located, BYU can open the lots up to students
when few faculty members are present. Beyond that, the system
has been used for surveillance.
“First and foremost, this solution is a security system. It has solved
numerous crimes and has helped prevent crimes,” Goodman said.
BYU distributes information to the local police when necessary, for
example to show which vehicles were on campus at a specific time to
help with accident investigations. During a recent string of bike thefts,
the AutoVu data within the Security Center was used to search for a
pattern in vehicles parked near the scene of the crimes. The vehicle
belonging to the thief was identified, and the culprit was caught.
A situation involving a string of burglaries that were taking place
both on and off campus was similarly resolved. The on-campus incidents
were tied to a specific vehicle, which was then tagged in the
AutoVu system for monitoring purposes. When that vehicle showed
up on campus, officers were alerted and they were able to contact
local police to apprehend the suspect.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.