7/16/2008Connecticut: City Boots Car of Innocent Man
Use of ANPR to boot vehicles in New Haven, Connecticut ensnares an innocent man.
New Haven, Connecticut's automated car seizure program booted the car of an innocent man last week. Desperate once again to close a budget deficit, city officials turned up the heat on its "Plate Hunter" car seizure program. As a result, at least one resident lost a full day's pay despite doing nothing wrong.
The Plate Hunter (formerly BootFinder) system is an automated camera that scans license plates on parked vehicles. Software checks the plates against a database list of people who allegedly owe the city money -- even if only a tiny amount. When a match is found, a constable will have a tow truck seize the vehicle, knowing he will retain a cut of the proceeds. Cars have been towed from home driveways, WalMart parking lots and even outside church during services for alleged non-payments of as little as $50. The program was designed to earn $9.5 million in 2006.
Recently, the city has experimented with the more traditional Denver Boot to immobilize cars until payment is made. The New Haven Independent reported that local resident Darrell Greene woke up last week and found his Ford Expedition booted. Greene, who works at the Hospital of St. Raphael, was stranded with no way to get to work. The sticker left on the SUV insisted he pay a ransom of $465 before it could be released.
Greene did have $390 in outstanding tickets -- last month. He paid them in full on June 17 and had kept all the receipts. Confronted with the evidence, workers at city hall told Greene that they had not updated the database. Greene was infuriated by their indifference to hassle and financial loss that their mistake had caused.
"They just said, 'Oh, OK, it's off now. You can go pick up your car.'" Greene told the Independent. "This is just crazy. This is the third time they've been in the paper for something. Something has to be done."
The Independent lists eighteen stories related to New Haven's car seizure and towing programs.