KU to start using windshield-blocking device for repeat parking violators

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Parking officials at the University of Kansas now have a new way of taking action against repeat violators or cars that have racked up more than three tickets in a two-week span.

Called “The Barnacle,” the bright yellow device looks as though an open briefcase is clamped to a car’s driver side windshield, completely obscuring the driver’s view. The device demands payment in order to be removed.

The two new Barnacles available to KU Parking will offer a cheaper and less time-consuming way to punish habitual offenders than towing, director Donna Hultine said in a news release Monday.

“Using The Barnacle will be less costly than towing, saving vehicle owners a portion of the regular towing fee,” she said.

Once a KU Parking official places a Barnacle on a vehicle’s windshield, it is held in place with 750 pounds of force, making it impossible to remove, according to the university. Instructions on the Barnacle tell drivers how to make payment in order to receive the code to remove the device. If someone attempts to drive the vehicle with the Barnacle on the windshield, it will send an alert to parking enforcement officers.

The device, though, may not actually be that difficult to remove. Students at the University of Oklahoma discovered the Barnacle could be removed simply by running a car’s defrost feature for 15 minutes and then using a credit card to slide the suction cups off of the windshield. The university retracted its plans to use the devices shortly after they were announced in January 2020.

Hultine, in an email to the Times, said KU was aware of the situation at the University of Oklahoma.

“The device has been through a few different iterations and Barnacle assures us they have addressed those early issues,” she said.

KU will not own the two initial Barnacle devices, and has an agreement with the company to use them, Hultine said. Each is valued at around $800.

“When we tow a vehicle, we issue an excessive violator ticket for $75.00. The current tow contract price is $65.00. If we Barnacle a car, we are not writing the excessive violator ticket. Barnacle charges a $35.00 release fee, which they keep. The Barnacle will save us time and it will save parker money and convenience,” she said in the email. “We won’t be able to use the Barnacle in every situation – currently we have two of them, so if they’re both deployed, we’d resort to towing. We also couldn’t use them if a windshield has a crack or chip in it.”

Tow companies are also able to charge violators retrieval fees and daily storage fees in order to get their car back. According to a video posted to the KU Parking website, the difference between towing costs and removing a Barnacle device is at least $130.

KU Parking is financially independent of the university, and generates all of its revenue through permit sales and ticket enforcement.

This screen capture from a video posted to the KU Parking website shows a Barnacle affixed to a car’s windshield from the inside of the vehicle.

Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter, can be reached at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264. If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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