Jan. 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM ET
ROME (Reuters) - The creativity of Italians in parking their cars and scooters — on traffic islands, the pavement or simply in the middle of the street — knows few limits.
But now police in the capital Rome have enlisted the power of social media to help them get to grips with the endemic problem.
Citizens who spot illegally parked cars can alert a dedicated police Twitter account, @PLRomaCapitale. The police then reply to say when they have taken action — typically in a matter of hours.
The new head of the urban police force Raffaele Clemente says that the initiative aims to create a cultural shift.
"Sharing, such as on social networks, is needed to fight certain patterns of illegality and rule-breaking, and also of crime," he said.
Congestion is a serious problem in the capital. In the past, authorities have been forced to limit car access when pollution caused by exhaust fumes reached potentially dangerous levels.
Over a half of Romans use private transport and the city has one of the world's most car-dense populations, with about 70 cars per 100 residents.
Add this to a culture of rule-breaking and cobbled streets that wind along a narrow, often medieval street pattern, and chaos can ensue.
Photos flagged to police by Rome residents show cars parked in zig-zags across pedestrian crossings and pavements.
A common problem is double parking, where vehicles pull up beside those already parked on the sides of the road. Rows of cars four-thick can form, leaving only a narrow gap for the traffic to pass by.
"In Cola di Rienzo street barbarity reigns ... Intervene!" wrote one user this week.
Seven hours later the police replied to say they had intervened: 25 separate fines had been handed out.
Initial skepticism among Twitter users about whether the system would work gave way to messages of thanks once penalty notices were issues.
One user posted a photo of the police giving out fines under the rain. "Thank you and go on like this!" wrote another.
(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Writing by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Sophie Hares)
Copyright 2014 Thomson Reuters.