County using technology to collect vehicle taxes

The Mecklenburg County Office of Tax Collector and the Sheriff’s Office have partnered to use License Plate Recognition software to increase vehicle tax collections, according to a news release from the county.

Two of the sheriff’s marked cars have been equipped with cameras and laptops. With the software loaded with a Tax Collector database, the cameras detect the license plates of owners who are at least five months behind on their motor vehicle property tax payment and who have ignored late notices, according to the release. Nine deputies and two sergeants have been trained to use the software. Deputies will drive the vehicles through parking lots, parking decks and other places where vehicles are parked.

Once the cameras get a “hit,” the deputy will place a bright yellow sticker on the driver side window with a notice that the tax must be paid in two days or the car will be subject to being sold at auction.

There are 600,000 vehicles registered for tax purposes in Mecklenburg County. The tax collection rate by the due date is about 70 percent. The collection rate using this software is expected to increase to 80 percent within the first year and to 90 percent long-term, according to the release. The cameras, software and equipment cost $36,605 and was paid for out of the Sheriff’s Concealed Carry fund, which must be used for law enforcement purposes.

The database is updated three times a week to ensure the system has the latest information, according to the release.

A one-week test of the equipment in June resulted in hits on 46 vehicles, and 60 percent of those owners paid the taxes and penalties due.

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