Tracking Down Tax Evaders
Reported December 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Americans owe $345 billion in unpaid taxes. Punishment could be years in jail or hefty penalties, but many times tax evaders are only caught if they're reported or if they fall victim to an IRS audit. Now, new police technology is making it harder than ever for tax evaders to hide from the law.
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Today, Captain Ruben Santiago is patrolling the streets -- but he's not searching for traffic violators. He's on the lookout for tax evaders.
"Every time you hear that beep, it's reading a tag," Santiago, of the Richland County Sheriff's Department in Columbia, S.C., told Ivanhoe.
Electrical engineers equipped the car with four 360-degree cameras that scan license plates in just seconds.
"Just in the matter of the little bit of time we've been sitting here, we've already scanned 15, 20 cars very easily," Santiago explained.
Tag information is sent to a national database. If the driver is wanted for unpaid property taxes, an alarm sounds. Officers radio in for backup.
With a $22,000 price tag, the system is too valuable for chases. But for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, it's more than paid for itself.
"Since March, we've read over 331,000 tags and recovered $91,000 of unpaid taxes on vehicles," Sheriff Leon Lott said.
And tax evaders are just the start: The technology can also be used to locate stolen vehicles, sex offenders and drug users.
"We can take it and put it at a location where we have drugs being sold and just covertly let it monitor every car that comes in and it will tell us, there's all your customers, there's your drug dealers," Lott explained. "This car is probably doing what it would take 50 deputies two or three days to do."
Keeping the streets safer … in a fraction of the time.
The "mobile plate hunter" can recognize license plates from all 50 states, and it has night vision capabilities. Sheriff Lott says it has been especially useful during these tough economic times, as more people steal cars and dodge taxes.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Captain Ruben Santiago
Richland County Sheriff's Departmen
Columbia, South Carolina 29223
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Tracking Down Tax Evaders
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