The city of Kyle, Texas, is turning its police officers into debt collectors using some sophisticated technology.
The technology is called license-plate recognition (LPR). An LPR system uses a video camera attached to a computer to take pictures of the license plates on vehicles. The technology then converts the images into text and can be used to compare the plates to different kinds of databases. For example, many law enforcement agencies use the technology to identify individuals who have outstanding warrants. The technology was used in Virginia last year to identify the vehicle being driven by a man suspected of killing a reporter and cameraman during an on-air interview. LPR is also used by repossession agents, who are looking for vehicles that banks want repossessed because the owners are behind on their payments.
In Kyle, the technology will be used to identify individuals with outstanding warrants. When identified, the individuals will have the option of paying the outstanding warrant, plus a 25% fee that is then sent to the company providing the LPR technology, Vigilant Solutions. Police cars in Texas are allowed to have debit and credit card readers in their vehicles, so individuals can make their payment when stopped by an officer.
For those who choose not to pay on the spot, the officers are then instructed to take the individuals to court to make their payment, or to jail.
“The police also now have an incentive to look for debt as a way to pay for their program,” said a Texas civil rights lawyer.