Police in Texas are helping collect delinquent court fines by using license plate scanners and credit card readers that allow them to take payments on the spot, with the vehicle data collected and stored by a private company. Texas passed a law last year allowing police departments to install card readers in squad cars, with the plan being to collect payments as opposed to arresting people for unpaid fines.

The license plate readers, license plate data access and software tools are provided to police departments by a private company called Vigilant Solutions in exchange for an additional 25% fee. Debtors pay the total court fines owed plus 25% more that goes to Vigilant.

It’s not clear how widespread the use of the scanners are by law enforcement in Texas. A report on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) website states that police in Kyle, Texas are using it. License plate scanners ping alerts when they locate a vehicle of a court-fine delinquent. Police then pull over the vehicle and give the occupants the options of paying immediately or going to jail. If the scanner flags a parked car, the police can place a notice on the windshield that instructs them to go to Vigilant Solutions' website to pay their fine.

While proponents point out that courts are recovering more money and jails are thus less crowded, EFF believes the fact that Vigilant is being funneled personal and legal data from all scanned license plates could be a privacy nightmare.

EFF states that both the court and police departments are sending private and personal data on citizens to a private company, which is then using that data to get paid. According to eWeek, a publication covering the IT industry, “What we really need are new laws that ban police departments from collecting money for any reason on principle. We also need laws that ban police departments from harvesting license plate and facial data for private companies. Because if we don't, a new kind of computer-automated police state is just down the road."

Collections & Credit Risk is interested in learning how our readers feel about police departments serving in this collections capacity. 

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.