The Horry County Auditor’s Office has a new weapon to use in its fight against newcomers who don’t register their cars in South Carolina, and they plan to start putting it to use Monday with the opening of school.

The small $18,000 camera that can be mounted on the top or hood of a car reads license plates as the car moves along, reading 5,000 plates in a single minute.

The information is downloaded onto a computer, giving county officials the license numbers, along with names and addresses of the plates’ owners.

Another option is leaving the reader at a school and retrieving it later with the license tags that have been there during the interim.

Members of the Auditor’s Office held their annual press conference Friday morning putting people on notice that their three-man team will be out beginning Monday.

Horry County has 62 schools now, according to the auditor’s staff, whose members say it will take them until about the middle of November to get to all of the schools, but people dropping off children won’t know where they’re going to be or when.

The three men making up the team are Toby Clardy, who covers the north end of the beach areas; Stephen Thompson, who covers the western part of the county; and Michael Muck, who covers the south end of the beach areas.

They’ll cover two schools each day until they get to them all.

Clardy says Horry County isn’t the only local entity that has the cameras, saying Conway and Myrtle Beach have found much success using the same-type of devices.

Eargle says she’d like at least one more camera and she needs several more office workers.

Horry County, she says, is the only county in the state that has a program like this that surveys school parking lots and drop-off areas, and it’s a nice benefit for county coffers.

The vehicle registration requirement is a state, not a county law, according to Eargle, who says, most of the money collected through this tax goes to schools. She reasons that people who send their children to Horry County schools should want to support them and not try to evade their taxes.

People who have the 4 percent residential assessment on their homes, receive the Homestead Exemption, have their cars in the state more than 150 days a year or have children in Horry County schools for 45 days must register their cars in Horry County.

When the auditor’s staff finds tags that are not registered, they send the owners letters telling them to pay. They have 30 days to respond. If they don’t, they get a second letter. After that they turn them over to Horry County magistrates.

Eargle says paying without prompting from the Auditor’s Office is a lot cheaper and easier than dealing with the trouble and fines that come with having to deal with the court.

Auditor’s staffers say they find the most scofflaws in the South Strand to Murrells Inlet and Carolina Forest areas.

Anyone who wants to report an out-of-state license tag on a car they think needs to be registered can call (843) 915-5050 or go to https://www.horrycounty.org/Departments/Auditor.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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