License Plate Recognition Reposession in the 21st Century

Technology has transformed the car repossession business from an art to a science. In 2001 the courts ruled that one’s license plate is not protected by 4th amendment privacy rights. This allows private businesses to collect, exchange and sell information pertaining to one’s license plate. The technology, known as License Plate Recognition (LPR) sprang into the car repossession agent’s toolbox.

License Plate Recognition is a technology that utilizes the digital video output of a camera to “pick out” a license plate from each frame of a video. The license plate image is enhanced by a computer and then optical character recognition is used to translate a picture into searchable text. The output of text is then compared to a database of license plates compiled by interested parties (ie lenders and dealers).

Today’s LPR technology can resolve and compare a license plate image in less than one second with the image of the license plate passing the camera at over 55 miles per hour!. A vehicle mounted camera can easily scan entire parking lots in a few minutes compared to the hours it took in days of old. This combined with GPS allows “spotter” cars to identify cars and mark their location for repossession. This technology can also work on a smartphone, allowing the truck operator to confirm a “marked” car before towing it away. LPR systems range from $2,000 to $15,000 dollars per vehicle. The more robust systems scan all 360 degrees around the vehicle.

Another new tool in the repo tool box is the Jerr-Dann Element. This is a truck mounted jack that allows a repo agent to deftly hook up to cars and tow them away. The operator backs the lift up to the front tire, and then the lift does the rest. It manuvers around and “finds” the other tire, then two arms lock behind the back of the tire. It can quickly pull a car out even in tightly paralleled parked situations. The jack plus the truck runs approximately $55,000. This is a far cheaper alternative than a boom mounted tow truck.




Force Placed Vehicle Insurance

Force placed vehicle insurance is an uncommon type of vehicle insurance used to protect a lender’s interest. Lender’s require the borrower to have full coverage insurance in case something happens to the vehicle. If the vehicle is involved in an accident, stolen, involved in a flood, etc. the lender has to be paid the amount owed on the vehicle from the insurance company.

When a borrower elects to garage or store their vehicle for a long period of time, they will not want to carry the cost of full car insurance. This is where force placed into comes into play.

Unlike the main types of car insurance policies, forced placed car insurance is a specific type of insurance policy placed on a car if the registered owner stops paying for full coverage insurance on the vehicle. The borrower agrees to acquire full coverage insurance when financing a vehicle to insure the car for loss, fire, and damage from natural causes. Force placed insurance is the cheapest way to protect the lender’s interests by adding the cost of the insurance to the car payments. If the borrower refuses to pay the cost of insurance, the lender can make the full payment of the car. This is far cheaper than the cost of civil litigation.

Often times, if car buyers actually took the time to read their sales contracts in detail, they would notice that their lending institution has written into the deal its intention to purchase forced placed car insurance if the owner cannot provide his own proof of insurance.

As long as the buyer obtains his own insurance, the forced placed policy will not be enforced. Typically this will be cheaper for the buyer. But, if no proof of insurance is provided in a specific amount of time, or insurance lapses sometime in the future, the bank’s policy will be enforced and the car owner will have to foot the bill.