TOKYO — Off-base drivers in Japan and Okinawa beware.

The National Police Agency will impose a get-tough system Thursday in an effort to curb illegal parking. Part of a revision in national traffic laws passed in 2002, a key change in the system will let more than just police tag vehicles parked illegally.

Contracted surveillance workers will be authorized to check for parking violations and place stickers on offending vehicles, a National Police Agency spokesman said. Drivers will then have to go to a police station to be issued a ticket and pay their fines, the amounts will remain the same.

Depending on the size of the vehicle, location and how long the vehicle has been left parked illegally, fines can run up to 25,000 yen — roughly $250.

If the driver is not the owner and fails to pay up, police will ultimately hold the owner accountable for the fine.

And owners who haven’t resolved the debt will be unable to complete mandatory biennial vehicle inspections until the fine is paid, according to the agency’s Web site.

To put more teeth into fighting parking problems, habitual offenders can be restricted from using their vehicles, it said.

“Since, in most cases, drivers are away from vehicles when parking illegally, it is hard to identify who actually parked illegally and some choose to ignore fines,” the agency said.

Even cars illegally parked only for a short time will be targeted because if one driver gets away with it, others are more likely to follow suit and create traffic congestion that can cause accidents, the agency said.

Surveillance workers will check for illegally parked vehicles only in designated areas, such as in front of train stations and shopping and business districts. Police will continue to check for illegal parking in other areas.

About 1,600 workers have been contracted to help 270 police stations throughout Japan as of April, according to the police agency.

Due to a “recent difficult public security situation” there has been a shortage of police personnel to crack down on parking, the agency stated.

The system also is designed to streamline the process of checking for illegally parked cars and attaching tickets, it stated.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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