Bounty hunters, like those of the Old West, are chasing drivers to get a share of money owed for parking penalties. They're armed not with Colt 45 pistols or Winchester rifles but with licence-plate recognition scanners! LONDON, England - Bounty hunters, like those of the Old West, are chasing drivers in England for their share of the money owed for traffic penalties.More than a million targets are being chased and identified by private operators who are armed not with Colt 45 pistols and Remington rifles but with licence-plate recognition scanners.Motoring groups, however, have suggested that innocent drivers are being hounded for debt of which they were unaware.OVER MILLION HUNTEDAccording to the London's Daily Telegraph, the UK's ministry of justice has released figures showing that 1.1-million people had been registered as being in debt to the UK's Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) in Northampton, Northamptonshire in 2012. Drivers face bailiff’s collection fees and their credit rating could be affected.Critics said "bounty hunters" were now roaming the streets with plate-recognition cameras to find cars with unpaid fines registered against them, the Daily Telegraph reported. Fine collection has become a lucrative business. In 2012, municipalities across Britain collected about R5.44-billion from parking-penalty charges.Often the target is not aware of the unpaid penalty; they may, for instance, have bought a car with an unpaid penalty against it. ‘IT’S BIT LIKE THE WILD WEST’If a case is registered at the TEC for collection it will automatically increase by half, plus the vehicle owner will also have to pay soaring bailiff's fees. More than one in ten traffic penalties are handed over to bailiffs.Barrie Segal, who runs the AppealNow website, told the Daily Telegraph: "It’s a bit like the Wild West but there are no good guys out there to look after vehicle owners. I've had cases where people have appealed and the council has claimed never to have received it and gone to the enforcement centre."A spokesperson from the British Automobile Association said: "This new system of civil enforcement was supposed to be an innovation but it had to show it had teeth by not allowing drivers to renege on tickets but treating fines as debt allows the debt-recovery process to run out of control and hound often innocent people who get very scared by the threats that bailiffs make."If you are patrolling the streets with a camera equipped essentially to lasso a car it amounts to being a bounty hunter. It is sinister."‘HOUSE OF HORRORS’Experts at the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Foundation have said the system a redesign as the number of cases reaching the courts showed it had failed. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The numbers illustrate what a 'House of Horrors' the parking system has become and why it is time for a redesign. "How have we descended to a situation where more than a million people have been pursued through the courts over a parking infringement? The industrial scale of this process reveals not its success but its utter failure."People who might already have difficulty settling the initial penalty are hardly likely to be able to pay a bill to which have been added extortionate bailiffs’ charges. We should be encouraging compliance through simple procedures, reasonable charges and better use of technology."The British Parking Association, however, believes bailiffs (debt collectors) are necessary to ensure people pay their fines” "It's about individuals who have received tickets but haven’t paid them. They have received reminders and appeals and still haven’t paid."Do you have any car-related "bounty-hunting" debt-collector stories? Email us and get published.