Jump to content
  • Join the TowForce community.

    It looks like you're not logged in. Register to get started and to receive Tower Down Notices.

Double trouble in St. Louis


Recommended Posts

Topic from July 2005:


This one will surely spark debate! I know I have so many emotions just reading this garbage. It's bad enough people think a private industry should work for FREE. But then that industry gives their local governments reason to step in and regulate. That's enough you read the story and we will likely end up moving this too and listed member forum. Fantastic company image being protrayed in the article as well.

Anna MacKay thought the worst was over when a St. Louis police detective told her that her Vespa scooter, stolen two weeks earlier in University City, had been found.

But it wasn't. To get her scooter back, MacKay went to the St. Louis City Towing impound lot. There, she was slapped with a $260 bill.

The scooter was missing its battery and wouldn't start, said MacKay, a Washington University graduate student. Nevertheless, the person behind the window demanded the money. "It makes you feel very helpless," she said.

If your vehicle is stolen and then recovered, you'll likely wind up at the dingy window at an impound lot, where victims of auto theft are treated the same as chronic parking ticket violators. Both have fees to settle.

The total can be several hundred dollars, often cash only, and sometimes exceed the value of a damaged scooter, car or truck. If the wheels remain in the lot after 30 days, they often go to the highest bidder.

"It's sad," said Sylvia Johnson, who drove her son, Lorenzo Johnson III, to pick up his stolen Chrysler Sebring at the city lot last week. "You're a double victim."

The process is similar throughout the St. Louis area. Police who recover the vehicle contact the department in the city where it was reported stolen. An officer there contacts the owner, and most of the time the vehicle gets towed.

The owner is required to arrive at the lot with a drivers license or proof of identity. Bringing vehicle registration papers speeds up the process, but they're usually in the stolen auto or destroyed. A photocopy is fine.

Fees vary from city to city, as does where vehicles end up. Cars recovered in Hazelwood end up at a tow yard in Ballwin. In Kirkwood, they go to Valley Park. Autos found in University City and Belleville go to yards within city limits. There are fuel surcharges, fees for towing, use of a flatbed, and storage.

In some cities, police request tows from companies with the best response time regardless of what they charge the rightful owner.

"We don't dictate the fees. That's on them," Belleville police Sgt. Don Sax said of the towing services.

For Casey Ray, a University City hairdresser, it was like getting kicked twice. In March, after her 1996 Sebring was stolen a second time from her St. Louis neighborhood, Riverview police recovered it at a church parking lot. They contacted D&L Rideout Towing to haul the convertible to St. Charles, where Ray's invoice shows she was charged $105 for retrieving a stolen car, an additional $80 fee, $35 for use of a flatbed, $9.50 for fuel and $45 for mileage - at $3 per mile.

She picked it up less than 12 hours later. Her bill: $274.50.

"If they'd just told me where they'd found it, I would have gotten it there," she said.

On rare occasions, police contact the owners and let them pick up their vehicle where it was found. Florissant police regularly do that if the auto can be driven, Officer Tim Green said. The city also allows owners to say where they would like the vehicle towed, which helps them avoid storage costs.

"Discretion is upon the officer," said Capt. Gerry Pollard, spokesman for St. Charles police. "We're not going to stand by for an hour or so waiting for someone to pick their car up."

About 2,500 stolen vehicles pass through the St. Louis City Towing lot annually, towing service manager Claude Gunn said. Officials are looking at ways to waive towing and impound fees for auto theft victims, but in the past they've never gotten anywhere. For one, Gunn said, it would be costly to taxpayers.

"The hope is that everyone has insurance," Gunn said.

Not everyone does. Ray and MacKay had liability insurance, but they lacked comprehensive coverage. As a general rule, comprehensive coverage includes "reasonable" tow fees and storage charges associated with recovering a stolen vehicle, said Tia Lindell, a spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance.

Police and impound officials agreed to reduce MacKay's bill, she said, because she was charged storage costs for nine days during which she didn't know the scooter was there. Rather than pay the reduced fee, she decided to let her scooter dealer buy the scooter for salvage.

"I got $250, and two years of using it," MacKay said. "The scooter was worth about $3,000. I'll still be paying it off."


Steve said:

This is where we as an industry fail to make all sides known. The reason we buy insurance is to mitigate risk. If I choose to only carry liability, then I accept the risk of a theft with no coverage. What if the vehicle was never recovered, should the government purchase a new vehicle for the victim?

Just went through similar conversations with Dallas officials. Dallas operates their auto pound and we receive payment for every tow we take in, regardless of what the City collects. We had a City Council member who believed auto theft victims should not be charged for recovering their vehicle. The City already gives them 2 free days of storage. The police department estimated a hit to their budget of 750,000.00 for that one exception. My question in these conversations: what about the hundreds of vehicles impounded every year because the owner was intoxicated, crashed the car, left the car, and ran home and reported it stolen to avoid prosecution? This person should also recover his vehicle for free???? Needless to say, the City is no longer pursuing this avenue. The reporter on the St. Louis article needs to realize we are the only privately funded player in this game, and someone has to pay us. He needs to ask his tax payers if they want to foot the bill for the “assumed risk” tow.


ForgivenOne said:

This is interesting news. I feel for those people who have had their car stolen, but when found, we provide a service to them by taking possession of it, storing it until they can make arrangements to take it. We must be paid for that service or it will cease to exist. The police can't wait there an hour or more like was stated in the article. They must be freed up to take care of more serious calls that come in. So what do they do, do they let it sit there and go on to the next and then if something further happens to the car, are the police responsible. Yeah right! They call rotation to take possession of it. Now, this may sound innapropriate to say, but let's examine who really should be responsible for the car being stolen, that would be the owner or driver. Sometimes these cars are stolen because the key is left in the ignition while they run into the store real quick. I've seen it done and I'm sure you have too. What about the person who lends their car to someone they just met? What the heck is that about? What about the fact that we know cars are stolen, we don't think it'll happen to us? So what if they've stolen three other cars in the neighborhood. Why don't we buy a good expensive alarm and protect our investment instead of the cheap one? Pay more now instead of later at the impound yard. Wait a minute, that didn't sound right, but hey! What about the lock that locks the brake lever from being used? I'm not gonna recommend a steering wheel lock bar as we know they are easily removed with a hacksaw to the wheel. Anyway, If you better protect your investment, can your car be stolen? Am I alone in my feelings here? I provide a service and I think I should be paid for getting up in the middle of the night for towing and storing your stolen car. Okay, sorry for the long windedness, this is a subject that does this to me.


Michael McGovern said:

This one is real simple. If the community as a whole feels that victims of crime should not have to pay towing/storage bills, then the government should pay the charges. I call it "towing welfare."

If a citizen can't afford food, the government (society) has decided to give them food stamps; it doesn't make the grocery store give them food for free. If a citizen can't afford medical services, the government gives them Medicade or other government-paid medical services; the doctors sure as heck aren't asked to work for free.

If a victim can't afford towing/storage fees, let the government pay for them. There is no way that towing companies should ever be forced to recover stolen vehicles for free.


Tow_Zone said:

Only one flaw to that plan. I do not want my tax dollar going to pay for someone stolen vehicle to be returned to them for free. Yes, some may very well be victims. However, I do not consider the majority victims because they did not take precautions to guard their vehicle from being stolen and do not have adequate insurance to cover the expense. They fail to realize that the vehicle could have been left there for them to recover themselves. However, authorities choose to impound the vehicle in order to insure it is secure from futher damage or theft. The so call victim or their insurance company is paying for that security not the recovery as they could have done that themselves.

The best system for a municipality is to charge everyone. Then allow those who wish to appeal those charges. But, no this was something a politician dreamed up to make themselves look good. Then to make matters worse the towing industry took it laying down. Now just as I perdicted 5 years ago it is spreading throughout the country.

You say your getting paid for these tows by the local government. Well don't expect that to continue as these local governments realize towers in other area are doing them for FREE. Geesh it's been like talking to a wall, and this virus continues to spread.

I've got more to say but I'll save it for a more appropriate time.


Unknown Member said:

That idea would lead to abuse...Lots of drunks wreck their cars and then run off to avoid arrest,after their car is impounded they call us and tell us that it was stolen,thinking that they don't have to pay to get it back if it was stolen.
I'm sure others run into this also.I feel for people that really have their cars stolen and don't have insurance,but it is their choice not to purchase theft coverage.Owning an Auto has risks and this is just one of them.


North County said:

Okay, I understand the originality of this post, but there are many deffinitions of stolen car aas well.

There's the good ole' boy who just done screwed up so he left kees init hoping it would go live somewhere else. Problem solved.

There's the owner who can't afford two things:

a) car payments for too long
b) insurance

Thus car goes bye bye, If it was worth keeping (at the time of theft) because car was mint condition they would have been all over picking it up quickly.

I don't know, where we are there's many scenarios of abandoned cars we get called for (for rotations mostly) these cars are usually 'growing' in a field.......? Some are almost recent. Insurances should cover this completely if it's truley a stolen, but they puusy-foot around until they try to not take any responsibility.

Sorry, just another rant from a tower who 'LOVES" to get rid of cars that aren't ours.....
Karen from Cali.


TowTrk1 said:

I Have to agree with Mike on this one. But I can only predict that towing services will not only paid by the state, but also performed by the state first.

I do think the government should pay though, but I will agree with Ron when he said he doesnt want his tax dollars paying for someone's junker getting returned to them. Unfortunately, if that was the worst thing our tax dollars paid for, then we'd be better off. You and I both know that our tax dollars pay for more ludicrous things than this.

With that being said, I dont see the horror with this story. Did the towing company steal the battery and such from the scooter? We pick up the stuff in whatever condition it is found in. It's not our responsibility to track down the missing parts, it's not our responsibility to repair the thing before its returned to the owner, and it's certainly not our social obligation to do ANYTHING for free.


Tow_Zone said:

"certainly not our social obligation to do ANYTHING for free."

Those were the words I was looking for here.


buggage said:

As far as that four-letter word "FREE" goes.... I really wish that the citizens of a given area would understand TANSTAAFL

Anyone know what that means? Anyone read Robert A Heinlein in their teen years? What it means is There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch..... Of course, your average sheeple defines free as "I didn't directly pay for it, so it must be free". BS!!! How bout in higher taxes, more laws, etc etc? Oh yea, you *did* pay for it, and methinks the cost was more dear than if you'd just written a cheque for it. Jesse


Corby said:

his idea is insane, the tower is going to be the victim for doing there job. And I think those rates were more than fair. The lady let herself get ripped off by selling the scooter for 250 and it only needed a battery.


Tow_Zone said:

While we have this forums attention, let's once again discuss these FREE tows related to Stolen Vehicles. I wonder how many more tow companies have now been forced to release stolen vehicles at no charge over the past couple of years.


Unknown Member said:

City of Fullerton not only makes their rotation company rlease vehicles for free, but also will come to my office and strongarm us for PPI's that come back as stolen to give them back to the R/O for free. I have even had Officers come to our office and wait inside our storage building and allow the R/O to take their car for free and tell us that we will be arrested if we don't comply.


Graciesdad said:

I do, and pay out the wazoo for it....if you CHOOSE not to carry insurance don't expect sympathy from me. It is not our responsibility as a industry to waive the very fee's that pay our insurance because you choose not to have it, or pay for it. Responsibility for your actions and choices has turned into a history lesson of yesteryear. If you cant afford insurance......well not to be heartless but your not my friend, family, or kids so its not my responsibility to help you. This is a business, not a government handout like most of these people are accustomed to. I cant stand to be persecuted because I charge for work I do just because you want to save some change and go the cheap route on insurance. The day I get told to tow for free to save some smuck from paying insurance is the day I close shop. As far a tax dollars.....if you cant eat or get medical help I may not gripe about my taxes the government makes me pay.....but if ya just cant drive.......sorry jack its time to walk or ride a bus. I let the government make me feed, house, and provide medical attention to you but if your just lazy then its on you pal. What will be next, cable tv for the underprivileged??? How about Starbucks gift cards???

As far as the charges.......maybe they wouldn't be so high if they didn't discount people's bills, or be made to give cars back for free.....its all bull. Government loves to help people and give stuff for free, but its not their pocket its coming out of....its ours. Now they want to attack your bottom line as well......gotta love it.

Its like not having homeowners insurance and then yelling at Circit City for charging you for the tv lightning struck.....what the heck would they say to that.....



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Driving a motor vehicle in any state is a privilege. AND, to do so, driving requires insurance. If a vehicle owner opts not to have sufficient coverage, it's not the responsibility of LE or police tower that provides service to the city. This is the same like-type scenario of not requiring payment for recovery at fatal scenes.      R.

  • Like 1

Randall C. Resch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was one response above that said " p.d. will come to the lot and threaten to arrest me if I dont release the vehicle free of charge". To that I say, get your cuffs out. I would love to see a judge. What are the charges?? Providing a service and requesting payment for said services?? Since when is that Illegal?? So many people get freaked out when they are told they are going to get arrested. I have seen tons of scenarios over the years where an officer will play the bogus "I will arrest you" trick just to get a person to do what they want. To that I say, Know your rights and have at least a generic knowledge of the law. 

  • Like 1


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Unfortunately, your content contains terms that we do not allow. Please edit your content to remove the highlighted words below.
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...
Please Sign In or Sign Up