Does Technology Stop Crooked Employees?

January, 2015

By Larry Donoghue

Through my 67-year career as a Parking Revenue Control Consultant, I have come across many, many types of fraud committed by employees and management of parking organizations.

Before induction loops were invented, the High-Tech Solution was using a rubber pneumatic hose to activate a ticket dispenser. It was introduced because previously a person could get a ticket from a dispenser by merely pressing a button. There was no need to have a vehicle present.

Both parking patrons and employees could readily steal tickets and use them later fraudulently to substitute them for tickets having higher dollar values. With the rubber hose solution, as the vehicle entered the parking facility, and the front wheels of the vehicles passed over the hose, it activated the ticket dispenser and a ticket

was issued.

Parking employees soon overcame this obstacle to their illicit means of livelihood. They figured out that all they had to do was just to jump on the hose and a ticket was dispensed. That ticket could be used later when a patron presented a parking ticket with a high amount of expired time.

The fraud would be committed as follows:

Say a patron presented an all-day parking ticket, which at that time might have been in the amount of $10. The cashier accepted the ticket, and informed the patron, “That will be $10, please. Do you need

a receipt?”

The patron would answer, “No, thank you.” The patron would give $10 to the cashier. Then he or she would retrieve the earlier stolen ticket, which by this time of day had an amount of elapsed time required a payment of only $2, and ring it up as a $2 transaction. The cashier would confiscate the difference in parking fees and later discard the higher-value ticket when his shift was done.

That High-Tech Solution soon became obsolete because of the above weakness with the concept. So, along came a newer version, namely High-Tech Solution II, which was a three-hose system. To defeat employees from just jumping on the hose, all three hoses had to be compressed in the proper sequence, first, second, and then third hose. In addition, the pressure required to activate the ticket dispenser was increased much beyond the weight of a very heavy person.

Never underestimate the creativity of a cashier with a lot of idle time during the slow periods.

At an airport in a large East Coast city, the parking employees figured out a way to defeat High-Tech Solution II. After a little experimenting with empty 55-gallon oil drums, they found out that the three raised ridges on the drum would do the job if the drum were filled with water.

The employees would just put the drum on its side, roll it into the entry lane and roll it over the three hoses. The ridges on the drum acted just like the tires of a vehicle rolling over them, and a ticket would be issued.

The use of an oil drum to steal numerous tickets is something that should have been detected by parking supervisors and the parking manager. It turned out that there was widespread collusion among the cashiers, supervisors and the manager.

The fraudulently diverted revenue was estimated to be a seven-figure amount back in the 1950s. Imagine what that would be today. (At that time, the highest-priced Ford four-door sedan cost about $2,500. It now can cost as much as $30,000.)

By the way, don’t think that just because technology has advanced, these little tricks haven’t kept up.

There is a Very High-Tech Solution, using loop detectors and treadles. The practice is that the car must first cover loop 1, stay over it while crossing the treadle in the correct direction, then cover loop 2. The ticket will then issue. However, it will not be valid until loop 1 is uncovered first, then the treadle is crossed again in the proper direction (rear wheels), then loop 2 is uncovered.

There, parking attendant, try to do that without a car!

Hah! Within 24 hours, a hybrid baggage cart – rather, two baggage carts lashed together, with the middle wheels removed – was crafted. When it was run over the area in front of the dispenser, a perfectly valid ticket was issued.

It took CCTV and hours of surveillance to catch this clever thief.

Contact Larry Donoghue, a “retired” parking consultant in Chicago, at ldonogh@aol.com.