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Local law enforcement agencies utilizing license plate readers

Alerts linked to cars tied to warrants, sex offenders, missing people

SAN ANTONIO – Those who have warrants out for their arrest may soon be forced to make a choice, due to new law enforcement technology being used in some Texas communities.

Offenders can either pay their fine on the spot or go to jail.

Deputy Mark Miller with the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Office is one of the few in the department utilizing the new crime-fighting tool known as a license plate reader.

"If you're driving a stolen vehicle or something like that ... then it's going to pop up and say 'stolen alert,'" Miller said.

The technology comes from Vigilant Solutions in Livermore, California. It scans license plates in search of people with warrants at the local, state and federal level. License plate readers can also alert officers of vehicles tied to sex offenders or missing people. Anytime a vehicle with an LPR is on, it's scanning plates. That includes when it's traveling at highway speeds.

If a camera picks up a plate with a warrant, it alerts the officer to pull over the vehicle. Depending on the type of offense, an officer may or may not call for backup.

The system allows drivers to pay fines on the spot with a credit card rather than go to jail, for some offenses. However, the roadside convenience comes at the cost of an extra 25 percent of top of the fine a person already owes. That additional money goes to the service's provider, not the local law enforcement agency.

"I've never had one ever complain or get mad because they had to pay something on top of it," Miller said.

Just 30 miles up the road from Seguin, in Kyle, the City Council decided to end their pilot warrant-redemption program with Vigilant. The Defenders will explain why Thursday night on the Nightbeat.