CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pay up or risk having your car seized and sold at auction—that’s the new warning to drivers who haven’t paid their Mecklenburg County vehicle tax bill.
The new tool to raise the collection rate while reducing the excuse rate is two deputy vehicles equipped with cameras and license plate recognition software.
Deputies drive the cars around the county looking for delinquent taxpayers and place a warning sticker on the cars.
"It's a very expensive tax on my car,” said driver Christian Hindley.
The tax bill is not the favorite notice Hindley gets every year in the mail. It costs him $400 per year.
"The law is the law, taxes are taxes, you have to pay them,” he said.
The problem is thousands don't pay or haven't so far and it is costing Mecklenburg County $9 million over roughly the last two years, according to Mecklenburg County Tax Collector Neal Dixon.
The county would prefer to have that money in its coffers to cover tight budgets.
Now, squad cars checking public streets, parking lots and ramps will scan license plates and issue warnings to vehicle owners who are at least five months delinquent on their vehicle tax bill.
The sticker says owners have to pay within two days or risk having the car seized and sold at auction to pay the bill.
Deputies tested the new cameras and software for a week. They came across 46 people who hadn't paid their vehicle property tax. After giving the notice, 60 percent of those paid up right away.
"Fortunately for us, we don't have to seize a lot of cars,” Sgt. England said. “They usually come up with the funds.”
Driver Pat Roder says the cameras feel too much like Big Brother tracking people down.
"Oh, I don't like that. It's just another way for the government to get information about you,” Roder said.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey says it will help eliminate excuses people give, such as never getting warning letters in the mail.
"It's more to demonstrate the urgency they are facing now,” Bailey said.
The Sheriff’s Office spent $36,000 on the equipment. The money comes from a conceal-carry fund.
More cars and cameras could be added in the future, officials said.