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 user 2005-02-20 at 9:19:00 am Views: 89
  • #10399

    If Only Pictures

    Tax collectors have figured out yet another way to track down

    Andrew Bucholz had invented what he
    thought was a great idea for tracking down stolen vehicles: a camera that scans
    license plates on cars moving at 60mph on multilane highways. He formed a
    company, G2 Tactics, in Alexandria, Va. last year and began hawking the camera
    to police departments for $25,000 each. Zero interest. Cops were leery of new
    toys and unenthused about spending on an insurance-industry problem.

    But it turned out that another department in
    local government loved the camera: the tax collectors. Since last April
    Virginia’s Arlington County has collected $90,000 by using the camera, called
    the BootFinder, to identify people with outstanding parking tickets and personal
    property taxes–including $8,000 from the driver of a Jaguar parked outside a
    restaurant. In New Haven, Conn. the BootFinder has fared even better. Since
    September the camera has generated $500,000 for the city in overdue parking
    tickets and motor vehicle taxes.

    Tactics has sold 17 cameras so far, just 2 to a law enforcement agency. “I was
    so dense,” says Bucholz. “There was money to be made in taxing and parking, and,
    unlike the police, those departments had money to spend.”

    In New Haven a tax-collection employee rides around with a
    police officer and points the 4-pound, cylinder-shape camera at plates on parked
    vehicles. The camera is connected to a laptop computer that is updated daily
    with a database of delinquent parking tickets and vehicle taxes. Cars are either
    towed or a sticker is placed on the windshield directing the owner to the tax
    collector’s office.

    New Haven already
    faces one lawsuit claiming that its practice of using the BootFinder to identify
    delinquent vehicle owners and then towing their vehicles constitutes an illegal
    search and seizure.

    This hasn’t deterred
    Arlington County, which has found a new task for its surveillance camera:
    Starting in March it plans to use the BootFinder to nab people who are on the
    county’s rolls for just about anything, from late park and recreation fees to
    overdue library books.