Saturday, May 05, 2007

"I think it's a little too much."

Technology helps officers catch toll road violators


By Jessica Willey
Channel 13 Eyewitness News
KTRK-TV (Houston)
Copyright 2007

Next time you're on toll road, make sure you're up to date on your toll fees. Authorities have new technology that can run your license plate without you even knowing it.

With thousands of drivers using Harris County toll roads every day, there are plenty of cheaters.

"Those persons who routinely run the toll and owe Harris County thousands of dollars," said Assistant Chief Randy Johnson with the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

They're at the top of the toll road authority's watch list, but now every driver is on the radar with the help of a new camera.

Sgt. Tony Cartwright with the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office showed us the new technology. A camera mounted next to the light bar takes a picture of every vehicle to its left. The computer then scans the license plate. If it's comes up with outstanding tolls or involved in crime, the driver is busted.

Also, gone are the days when the officer has to take his eyes off the road to check a plate himself.

"It allows us to use our time more efficiently and be able to operate a vehicle in a safe manner while on patrol," said Johnson.

Five patrol cars with cameras hit the toll roads Friday, but is it another example of big brother always watching?

"I think it's a little too much," said one driver we spoke with.

"I just don't think it's right," said another.

To that, officials say they're just doing what they've always done, just more often

"This allows us to check a lot more vehicles," said Sgt. Johnson.

So beware.

"It's going to make it much harder for them to break the law and run the tolls and get behind on their bills," said Sgt. Cartwright.

These cameras cost about $10,000 each. The Harris County Toll Road Authority hopes to soon buy more. The five they have are used as often as possible.

© 2007 KTRK-TV:

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