Two months after purchasing the $70,000 “Plate Hunter” project, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. authorized the suspension of the tax-collection towing system because of suspected corruption by program managers, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office Friday.
The Plate Hunter program, which was launched Feb. 12, is a computer-operated license plate scanner that locates the cars of tax evaders parked on local streets. Though Plate Hunter representatives promised that the use of the system in New Haven would recover millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and traffic tickets for the city, local officials are now investigating allegations that city tax collector C.J. Cuticello, along with two state marshals, cancelled tow orders for politically prominent local figures.
Cuticello told the News in February he expected the Plate Hunter program to pay for itself within one week of commencing operation. Now, the city will suspend the use of the four Plate Hunter apparatuses at least until April 23.
DeStefano will investigate to see if the improper dismissal of a tow order that occurred earlier this week is part of a larger case of corruption, he said in Friday’s press release.
“It’s my responsibility and the City’s responsibility to make sure this [Plate Hunter system] is a transparent, controlled and equitable program aimed solely at collecting back taxes and unpaid parking ticket fees,” DeStefano said in the statement.