Officials use new tactic to get delinquent taxpayers to settle debt

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — On Monday morning, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office and Tax Collection officials showed off a new tactic to force delinquent taxpayers to settle their debt.

"I don't enjoy paying my taxes, but I definitely pay them," Adam Miller said.

Miller may not like cutting a tax check, but he knows he has to.

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He was surprised when Eyewitness News told him the county is $9 million short of tax revenue because of delinquent taxpayers.

But the sheriff's office has new technology in place to help track down offenders who have not paid taxes on their vehicles and get them to pay up.

Two patrol cars are now equipped with cameras. As they drive past parked cars on a street or in a garage, it scans the license plate and runs it against a database of 76,000 plates.

When there is a hit, the computer alerts the deputy.

Eyewitness News rode around with a patrol deputy and, within a half hour, had three hits.

Deputies print out a sticker with the amount that is owed, warning the owner they have two days to pay, and put it on the driver’s side window.

If they don't pay, the sheriff's office will move to seize their car.

The cameras and software cost $33,000, paid for with funds the sheriff's office gets from concealed carry permit fees.

"Tax dollars are not used for these particular devices. But the devices are set up to collect dollars,” Sheriff Chipp Bailey said.

During a weeklong trial run, the sheriff's office tagged 46 cars. Sixty percent paid within the two-day window.

Bailey said that’s an indication the new system will work and could be on more cars in the future.

North Carolina law allows taxpayers one month to pay their vehicle tax bill. The average bill is about $137.