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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Massive parking fines inspired one Australian man to create an iPhone app that lets users warn each other when parking officers are spotted lurking near their cars.
"The idea was pretty much born out of frustration," said Joseph Darling of "ParkPatrol," the app developed by his Sydney-based firm to help users avoid tickets that cost what he said was at least $82 Australian ($81) a shot -- and often more.
"I could show you a list of maybe 20 to 30 parking tickets that I had last year, in my town, just by being a normal driver. I must have spent thousands of dollars."
The final straw came when he was ticketed in his own neighborhood despite a parking permit that he pays hundreds of dollars for each year.
The app lets users "sign in" and report sightings of parking officers with a single push of a button. Cartoon faces wearing a police cap then appear plotted on a map of the area, along with a notice thanking them.
The app will also alert users if a parking officer is spotted in their area and how close. Notification options for 500 meters (1,640 ft), 200 meters and 100 meters are available.
The free app is available in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and French. Roughly 80 percent of users are in Australia, but it is also used in England, Spain, France and Germany, Darling said.
"With an active community, it's pretty accurate. We reckon around 90 percent," he added.
Future versions, currently being finished, will include an alert function for when parking time has expired. The company is also finalizing an Android version.
Next on the drawing board? A similar app that allows women to report sightings of handsome men.
Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Paul Casciato