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Monday, September 27, 2010

LPR Technology

A person posted a question on Linkedin - asking for opinions on dual assigning a repo assignment to two companies at once. I then raised the question about LPR (License Plate Recognition) and the fact it seems to go unnoticed that this also creates double assignments.

The LPR process puts a camera in a vehicle and hundreds or thousands of license plates are scanned each night. Lenders upload lists of the license plates on cars they are looking for and when an LPR camera spots a unit the Lender is looking for, each of the 3 companies with the camera's has a different process they follow, and most, if not all, allow a Lender to have one of their accounts double assigned to more than one repo company at a time- a deadly practice. The problem could be eliminated if the LPR companies required the Lenders to become accountable for each assignment as most of these accounts are already assigned to a repo company when the Lender gives the list of wanted cars to the LPR company, who then distributes the cameras and coordinates the assignment process when a camera spots a unit.

The owner of a LPR company posted a comment to explain LPR, however the same question remains. Here is his comment and my comment that followed - I think this is a challenge the repo industry faces with the advent of LPR

Here is a comment from Scott Jackson, owner of MV Track:

Scott Jackson • "The MVTRAC system is a real-time alert, so the moment an ALPR unit scans a plate the alert goes off and the agent can print an assignment. We do not view it as a "double assignment" In the early stages of research and development, lender white-board sessions brought this scenario up:

Agent #1 is assigned the account by the lender by fax or database and have been running the addresses for 14 days. Day 15, the VIN hits the MVTRAC systems Nationwide and Agent#2 drives by the vehicle which happens to be located at an originally assigned address assigned to Agent #1 and at that very moment, Agent #1 happens to be at the address as well. In this scenario, Agent #1 has the assignment and Agent #2 can print the assignment after his ALPR system hits on it generates a repossession order.

In this scenario, most would say it's a "Double-Assignment" Technology has definitely changed the playing field for us all. Statistically, the above scenario, the odds of it happening are very-very high (but of course it is still possible) You see, Agent #2 is unaware of the assignment, up until the very moment his system hits on the plate. Agent #1 would most certainly be in the process of recovering the vehicle and Agent #2 would see this, or Agent #1 would be down the street setting up for the recovery if it took some planning.

In the end, this is the scenario for a "double-assignment" with MVTRAC ALPR systems, which in the end comes down to the professionalism of the agents because the danger here is Recovery Agents "fighting" or "arguing", some altercation over the assignment and the recovery. MVTRAC's MVRecovery division maintains an approved vendor list of over 530 Recovery Agencies and as many readers here know, the packet is over 30 pages and very extensive. We're also working developing a Recovery Industry University for the individual agents to attend and become certified, that will cover this scenario and a quite a few more. Collectively, with greater awareness of the challenges of new technology, coupled with professionalism and continuing education, the Recovery Industry will evolve and develop further.........and again...... "

Here is my response...

Once LPR gets dialed and risks are reduced, AND when communication between ALL affected parties improves, it will have an even larger positive impact.

Two agents fighting over a repo is the exact situation our agents are running in to when our skip company, Find John Doe, assigns a locate. It has happened more than a few times , especially in L.A. Multiply that by the potential for a 3rd or 4th LPR Company to get an assignment from a lender …

In one actual case, we gave our agent a locate in a remote area, the unit didn’t show and our agent didn’t want to make a second trip, so they kicked it in. The guy didn’t even know his car was repo’d, so it was awkward, but could have been dangerous if the debtor was confrontational.

The biggest problems will happen when the debtor comes out and stops either the original agent or the LPR agent with a threat and the agent leaves without the unit. Later that night, the second agent spots the unit, and having no idea of the prior confrontation, they begin the repo and this time the debtor may be waiting with their shotgun. This is EXACTLY how my guys were killed several years ago.

Accidents will happen and when they do and there is an injury of some form, lawyers get involved. A review of large suits has proven that when something happens and there is accountability, i.e "In the early stages of research and development, lender white-board sessions brought this scenario up", the Punitive $ add up fast.

There is no doubt LPR is a powerful tool, however, until something really bad happens and a Lender is held accountable, my guess is not much will change. The scary thing is it still may not change, as history dictates with the explosion of the Forwarding model. The issues caused by using inexpensive, sub-professional repo agents to save a buck. i.e. several deaths and injuries caused by Forwarders using the cheapest guy they can find and Lenders turning their head because the contract passes on liability to the Forwarder is well documented, and it still goes on.

The decision to change the current LPR process of double assigning will be based on who is ultimately responsible when something really bad happens? Is it the lender for assigning a plate when they know that almost always it’s a double assignment, or the LPR company for not insuring their agents are protected from double assignments? It certainly can't be the agent in the field’s fault, unless there is something I am missing?

BTW, I like the alert going off concept and the agent being able to immediately take the car idea, but it would be nice if you could also assure that agent that already has his life on the line just by doing the job he does, that he doesn't have a second repo man pulling up when he's in the middle of hooking up, or worse, have a second repo man working "his deal" that already has had a confrontation with the debtor he's about to hook, or kick in.

This is where clients should get involved as I believe that they have the ultimate accountability on this, and if they're passing that liability to the LPR company through some language in a contract, I think LPR companies need to really work to get on top of this before it comes back on an agent in the field. LPR companies have the data, you hold the cards, so it shouldn’t be that hard to tell a Lender they cant risk people's lives and double assign deals. Before LPR, some Lenders double assigned deals, they got in trouble ,and then they stopped. Technology and the volume it will drive will only increase the odds of a problem, so why is it OK now?

If the contract says the LPR company agrees to defend and hold the Lender harmless, that's not a good thing as the LPR company didn't double assign it, the lender did. I’m curious to know how that part works Scott, who is responsible?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The information age

Some people call it Public Records, some call it Data, and in our business we call it a lead.

I call it information.

In the current state of the skip tracing industry, we have a tremendous amount of information at our fingertips.

Since we live in the Information Age, we should always be striving to find better ways to process and use available information to make better decisions.

In the old days, I would get so excited when someone went to Battle Mountain, or any remote location, and they brought me back a local phone book. Suddenly, I had the information I needed, at my fingertips, to crack a tough case. I had a book of leads.

The amount of data available on people these days is amazing. It's the closest thing we've seen to Big Brother.

What's important is to find a way to take that information, streamline the identification of the most relevant data that's available through Public Records, which includes everything about a person that's available on the Internet, and put that into a format that can improve the process of skip tracing.

That's skip tracing in 2010.