Aggressive measures to help the city of New Haven collect revenue and close a multimillion-dollar budget gap are the impetus for new parking enforcement tactics, city officials said.

As of Feb. 10, New Haven has been using Bootfinder — a digital camera connected to a laptop that is capable of scanning license plates at high speed — to find people with outstanding parking tickets and tow their cars. The new policy will tow a car if its owner owes more than $200 in unpaid tickets.

The policy is part of a response to obstacles the city encountered in its attempt to collect revenue from one-time fines or fees, such as ticket collection or building permits, in order to make up for a budget deficit, city officials said.

Derek Slap, a spokesman for Mayor John DeStefano Jr., said the Bootfinder program had previously been used for unpaid property taxes and therefore only targeted New Haven residents. Now that the city is broadening the range of the Bootfinder program, though, Slap said nonresidents — including Yale students — will also be directly affected by the new penalty for unpaid tickets.

The Bootfinder surveillance applies to cars registered both in and out of state. But cars will not be towed if they are on private property, city officials said.

Some Yalies with vehicles said they think the new parking ticket penalties are too strict. Alexander Shenkin FES ’06 said he has had a number of tickets already as a result of poorly placed or obstructed signs and markers. He said it would be unfair to tow his car when the city is actually at fault.

“It’s not very hard to get $200 in parking tickets in New Haven,” Shenkin said. “I think [the parking system] is already way too punitive as it is, and adding this extra measure … it all seems kind of screwed up to me.”

Slap said he could not comment on whether Yale students have more or fewer back parking tickets than other New Haven residents.

Slap said the Bootfinder program has proven effective in New Haven thus far, enabling the city to confiscate 1,800 vehicles as payment for back property taxes and yielding $1 million in revenue in the program’s first six months of operations.

Similar systems are being implemented in other local cities, including Bridgeport, Conn. Bridgeport tax collector Robert Tetreault said the city purchased three Bootfinders and that state marshals would use them to tow vehicles on which taxes are owed.

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