Barnacles have appeared on vehicles in Saskatchewan's capital, but they're not sticky little water-dwelling crustaceans.

The bright yellow devices, used to make sure parking scofflaws pay their tickets, could soon be making their way to other parts of the country. 

"You will see more and more Barnacles," Colin Heffron, chairman of Barnacle Parking, said in an interview from New Jersey.

When a Barnacle is placed on a vehicle’s windshield, commercial-grade suction cups latch onto the glass with more than 450 kilograms of force. It can only be removed once the driver uses a QR code on the device to pay outstanding fines.

A private company in Ontario has signed on to use Barnacles, and the University of Regina has begun deploying the device for people who persistently fail to pay fines. 

"It is important to note that the Barnacle is only used as a last resort," Paul Dederick, a university spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. 

Dederick said the Barnacle is used after an extensive process. Anyone who has accumulated $199 or more in unpaid parking fines is assigned a persistent violator status and their vehicle gets a notice if it's on campus. 

If the fines are still not paid and the vehicle is spotted on campus, it's time for the Barnacle. 

Dederick said it's "a less invasive enforcement tool than traditional towing and offers a less arduous experience for violators than using a parking boot or wheel clamp."

The university has used the Barnacle four times since January, and it's been the subject of much social media attention. 

Heffron said the device — with a catchy name, bright colour and prominent display on windshields — often goes viral online when deployed in a new market. 

SpongeBob Square Pants comparisons abounded when the New York Police Department began a pilot project with the devices earlier this month. The force said on social media that Barnacles allow officers to reduce parking congestion and address vehicles that are a nuisance and a hazard.

Heffron said Barnacles have been deployed at universities, in municipalities and by other police forces across the United States from Florida to Michigan and even in Hawaii.

People have posted online different ways to try and unstick the Barnacle, from running defrost to using a credit card to pull up the suction cups.

Unfortunately for those who need to pay a fine, the only way to truly remove the device is to take out the windshield, said Heffron. If someone tampers with the device, it triggers an "ear-piercing" alarm.

The goal of the Barnacle is to deter people from parking illegally without the extra hassles that come with a tow or a parking boot. It also promotes compliance, Heffron said. 

"If you drive into a parking lot and happen to see a few of these on a windshield, you aren't parking illegally there," he said. "You are going to move … you are going to pay for your parking."

While the company is just delving into the Canadian market, Heffron said it has been tested to make sure it can withstand the frigid northern climate. 

The company hired a freezer truck and parked it outside its office in New Jersey, testing the Barnacles inside. The devices have been used in Alaska. 

"We are 100 per cent prepared to service Canada," Heffron said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.