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Parking meter QR codes in La Mesa link drivers to pornography

The City of La Mesa acknowledged they are aware of the issue and got rid of the QR codes.

LA MESA, Calif. — The QR codes you see on parking meters around La Mesa are supposed to take you to the Park Smarter app, where you can pay for parking on a stored credit card or add more time to your meter, but when CBS 8 scanned meters around downtown, we were directed to several different google search pages, including one for the Securities and Exchange Commission and another one promoting pornographic videos.

“Welcome to La Mesa!,” said Suzanne Laterreur with a laugh. “It's a wonderful place to do business, but sometimes interesting, ya.” Suzanne owns Honey and Hive salon and says her customers have used the app to add money to their meter, but she had no idea something was wrong with the QR codes until she saw city workers covering them up Monday morning. “He was just kind of doing his business and moving on to the next one.”

A parking enforcement officer quickly walked past our camera Monday holding a black marker in his hand. Every single QR code we saw after that was covered up. The city acknowledged they are aware of the issue and got rid of the QR codes. They sent CBS 8 a statement saying in part, "The vendor of the parking meters has been contacted and alerted of the issue. The vendor has been asked to correct the issue and provide an explanation of the problem."

La Mesa officials say they did receive clarification from the vendor later on Monday, stating that the parking app needs to be open before scanning the QR code. Without that, “the user’s phone will do a search provided by the default search engine on the user's phone.” La Mesa says they have asked for replacement stickers from the vendor and those will be installed as soon as they are received.

QR codes have become extremely popular since the pandemic, if fact several businesses in La Mesa use them, including Suzanne's. “We use them even for business cards,” she said. “A lot of my stylists have a QR business card where you can tap through. You can pay, you can make an appointment. It's definitely something we utilize, but it needs to be the right one.”

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