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Proposal would stop victims of car thefts from being charged fees (IN)


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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — City-County Councilman Joseph Simpson noticed a problem.

 

Whenever a stolen vehicle was recovered in Marion County, it was sent to an impound lot.

 

The Indianapolis Metropoliatan Police Department often send the vehicles there to examine for possible evidence. 

 

However, once the victims go to the impound lot to pick it up their vehicles, they receive a bill. Often the bills are in the hundreds of dollars.

 

Simpson has put together a proposal that would give residents a seven-day grace period before they are charged by IMPD. 

 

"This is straightforward. This is something taxpayers should not have been paying for," Simpson said. 

 

Before putting together the proposal, Simpson discovered through the city attorney that several cities use the same seven-day grace period. 

 

The proposal has a number of hurdles to clear, but Simpson said he remains confident it will become law. 

 

RESOURCE LINK with video

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Mr. Simpson's proposal does not support small business. And, besides, aren't motorists supposed to be responsible for vehicle ownership that requires insurance. A tow company does not and cannot work for free, why should they be expected to perform a free service? Perhaps the Crime Victim's Fund can pay for the tower's services, or, if a suspect is apprehended for the theft, they should be required to pay restitution to the vehicle's owner?    R.

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Randall C. Resch

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Transferring the victim status to the tow company is not a solution. Suggesting those who have their vehicle stolen being victimized twice is something that came up a decade ago at the Conference of the Mayors. It was driven by citizens that did not have the proper insurance coverage to cover the cost of the vehicle being towed, stored and secured from further damage.

 

Problem is these Mayors seeing an opportunity to gain votes went back and either attempted to implement the program or did implement it. Some forced the tow company in their contract to conduct these tows at no charge for a specific number of days. Others paid out a minimal recover cost. I believe that ended quickly when those communities realized how much it was costing them.

 

I had thought the auto theft victim identity had gone away until I read this story. I have heard some communities are now contacting the vehicle owner telling them where they can find their car and leaving the scene because they are unable to find a tow company willing to tow it for free.

 

Besides today a very small faction of stolen vehicles were taken without the keys. The vast majority had the keys either left in them or given to the person in exchange for narcotics. Either way that person is a victim of their own carelessness.

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As it relates to police involvement, it was our department's policy to try and find a vehicle's owner. And, that meant driving to the registered owner's (local) home, no matter the hour and making contact. Some departments would use a backwards directory and attempt calling the last registered owner. Here's the part that doesn't make sense. When the cop would find the owner and advise where the vehicle was located, owners were responsible for have the vehicle towed ... that costs money after the fact. Leaving a vehicle on the city streets could lead to re-theft, stripping the vehicle, vandalism, or urban decline. Some of the root causes; owners that aren't up to date on registration, not updating their residential addresses, military personnel valid FPO, or playing the "I live out of state registration when I'm really living here to avoid registration fees and taxes." By contract, a tow company cannot refuse to tow a stolen car for fear of having to release it for free. Doing so could be a violation of contract where removal is the end-result of refusing to take the call. I think it's a big problem that towers should face head-on until laws are changed to support the so-called victim.    R.

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Randall C. Resch

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Randy the department that were forced to leave them had no other option. Every local tow company refused to take them after the number of stolen vehicles became a burden on them. Every tow company stood together as one went to the mayor and said NO, We are no longer going be force to work for free. These tows cost us money and now we are the victims! I could list all the expenses involved in that one tow, but we all know what they are. Some tow companies just look the other way, kinda like store theft.

 

Wonder how many companies are so well compensated on the regular contract tows that they can afford to tow stolen vehicles, investigations, police vehicles, etc. for no charge? I have not found but one company that could say they could justify the contract because of the rates they were able to charge. Thus shifting the expense...

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I agree that the tower should not be subsidizing these theft recoveries. If the legislators want it to be "free" to the victim, they need to direct a fund to compensate the tower for their service. This can be done as Randy suggests through the crime victim fund, or perhaps have the insurance commissioner change the insurance regulations to require the underwriter to cover their insured liability in these cases. Now, without theft insurance the victim is on their own, but that is the risk they take not having insurance.

 

In this particular example, Marion County, IN (Indianapolis) the impound is a city owned facility managed by Auto Return, so if the city is willing to waive the first 7 days of storage it is their own revenue they are losing. As I understand the process, currently the tower is paid upon dropping the vehicle at the facility, so as long as the city still pays for the tow they ordered I am ok with them waiving their own fees. To force this upon independent storage operators would be awful.

 

To play devils advocate, the property protection services provided after a fire or other loss to a home re all billed for, and absent fire insurance the property owner would be liable for the fee, so why should owning a vehicle be any different? Perhaps this opens a discussion to change how motor vehicle liability insurance is produced in the US. Maybe we should include theft and accident recovery fees in the definition of basic liability, a level of coverage mandated by law in every state. Yes, insurance premiums would rise a bit for all, however in the end the tower would be paid for their services every time, or almost every time. Combine this with real penalties, such as withholding driver license or registration privileges for owners that fail to maintain appropriate coverage or pay the towing fees, we could see real change in the profit margin in our industry.

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So ... by raising insurance premiums a little bit is a full-circle problem to begin with when owners cite they can't afford insurance. Making matters worse to your reasoning Brian ... now there's a community who are driving without a current driver's license. I like your idea Brian to suggest the insurance commissioner to require the underwriter to maintain perhaps a "slush fund" that covers those victims, even if $5 per policy was funneled into a Vehicle Recovery Program.    R.

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Randall C. Resch

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I suppose it could price a few more out of the insurance market. Good point.

 

There has to be a solution to driving without insurance, however I have no idea what could be done that would not break the resources of law enforcement. We know they are already overburdened and don't have the time to check and enforce insurance on every vehicle they may make contact with. Perhaps as license plates become interactive with telematics, a proposal suggested to enforce/collect new road use fees such as vehicle miles traveled taxes (to replace fuel taxes), there could be real time enforcement of cancelled or suspended insurance. The problem with telematics is the infringement on freedom and privacy, both strong issues that I would not be happy with giving up.

 

Really, I have no idea how to solve the issue at hand, although I know for sure passing on the cost to towers for recovering and storing stolen vehicles is not the solution. 

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Brian ... we've  talked about this before and I'll ask this question about limited budgets and not enough enforcement?

 

We all know that cops can't have a quota, but, if it takes maybe 15-minutes (at the most to write one citation), how many tickets could be written in a ten or twelve hour work day?

 

For one idea, how about all of those DUI arrests, ignition interlock orders, move-over violators, reckless motorists, street-racers, texting while driving and cell phone citations; assessing an additional ?$? dollars to their convictions could be a way to fund other much needed programs like blocker trucks and stolen vehicle programs. Perhaps the only way to get ahead of all of these problems is to hit bad drivers in the pocketbook? And, that doesn't require special enforcement. Note the bold word "convictions",  means, those individuals are required by the court to pay because they were found guilty of those crimes.

 

If lack of law enforcement is created by lack of money, the monies generated by convictions through the courts could be a viable source to finance these programs. The process seems simple, yet bleeding hearts say the cops only enforce the laws as a money stream.      R.

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Randall C. Resch

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27 minutes ago, rreschran said:

Brian ... we've  talked about this before and I'll ask this question about limited budgets and not enough enforcement? We all know that cops can't have a quota, but, if it takes maybe 15-minutes (at the most to write one citation), how many tickets could be written in a ten or twelve hour work day? For one idea, how about all of those DUI arrests, ignition interlock orders, move-over violators, wreckless motorists, street-racers, texting while driving and cell phone citations; assessing an additional ?$? dollars to their convictions could be a way to fund other much needed programs like blocker trucks and stolen vehicle programs. Perhaps the only way to get ahead of all of these problems is to hit bad drivers in the pocketbook? And, that doesn't require special enforcement. Note the bolded word "convictions",  means, those individuals are required by the court to pay because they were found guilty of those crimes. If lack of law enforcement is created by lack of money, the monies generated by convictions through the courts could be a viable source to finance these programs. The process seems simple, yet bleeding hearts say the cops only enforce the laws as a money stream.      R.

As you know, I fully agree with your views on this topic. Revenue from convictions should go back to enforcement and other community benefit campaigns rather than the general fund. This is a nearly perfect way to fund special projects as well as general enforcement improvements, if we can get past the anti-police groups.

 

One of my new favorite experiments is the slow down move over camera system. It is legal in Ohio already and under development for other areas. The camera provider makes the equipment available at no cost to the law enforcement agency, and with agency sponsorship they can be installed on tow trucks. Like speed and red light cameras they get a portion of the fine revenue, the law enforcement agency gets a portion but the majority is earmarked for safety programs. I would love to see these roll out nationwide and be required equipment on all highway tow equipment with the proceeds supporting blocker service and other developments.

 

Sadly, a few bad apples have spoiled it for the well intentioned officers. Example, speed trap towns and other "Roscoe P Coltraine" type of enforcement. I have faith in the enforcement community as a whole so I have no problem with your concept, if there are some checks put into place to assure deceptive practices are not used.

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Great idea Brian. You're right about the nay sayer's when it comes to mechanized enforcement.

 

Our city had red-light cameras and they proved to be a joke. I will vouch that a cop who writes a SOLID citation, and there's plenty to be had, that citation can be justified and won in traffic court. When solid citations are found to be guilty against the motorist, a monetary fine should be the answer to generating funds. I personally don't care about anti-police groups. I think move-over cameras will be challenged because it doesn't take clarity or closeness of the driver's image (it wasn't me your honor). But, put two specially trained officers in an unmarked semi-tractor to drive up and down the highway and driving alongside the cellphone/texting driver ... one CLD officer drives the semi, the other takes a single or flurry of pictures from the passenger seat. Take the photo ... make the stop. Sure it takes special tactics and personnel, but the problem with texting and cellphones while driving has reached epidemic stages. They do this in Tennessee and other states. It's not the usual enforcement tactic, but it works. Caught in the act and a photo too boot is the way to catch those who violates it's really hard to claim, "not guilty", staring back in the camer's lens. Busted! The same can be done when it comes down to slow-down move-over violations. Just assign a special enforcement team to do the work. Without a doubt, the fatality numbers justify special enforcement.  R. 

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Randall C. Resch

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7 minutes ago, rreschran said:

Great idea Brian. You're right about the nay sayer's when it comes to mechanized enforcement. Our city had red-light cameras and they proved to be a joke. I will vouch that a cop who writes a SOLID citation, and there's plenty to be had, that citation can be justified and won in traffic court. When solid citations are found to be guilty against the motorist, a monetary fine should be the answer to generating funds. I personally don't care about anti-police groups. I think move-over cameras will be challenged because it doesn't take clarity or closeness of the driver's image (it wasn't me your honor). But, put two specially trained officers in an unmarked semi-tractor to drive up and down the highway and driving alongside the cellphone/texting driver ... one CLD officer drives the semi, the other takes a single or flurry of pictures from the passenger seat. Take the photo ... make the stop. Sure it takes special tactics and personnel, but the problem with texting and cellphones while driving has reached epidemic stages. They do this in Tennessee and other states. It's not the usual enforcement tactic, but it works. Caught in the act and a photo too boot is the way to catch those who violateas it's really hard to claim, "not guilty", staring back in the camer's lense. Busted! The same can be done when it comes down to slow-down move-over violations. Just assign a special enforcement team to do the work. Without a doubt, the fatality numbers justify special enforcement.  R. 

I am a big supporter of the ride alongs in tractor trailers and such. Here in Pennsylvania we have Operation Yellow Jacket, where State Troopers ride in PennDOT dump trucks and cite violators for cell phone, speed and other work zone violations. I would like to see these programs expanded as well.

 

The cameras have come a long way. With the move over camera being tested in Ohio, their law requires an officer review the video before a citation can be issued, the camera company sends 15 second clips showing the offending vehicle, the lanes (to prove they had ability to move over). It also clearly shows the driver's face, or they don't submit it. It also shows the trucks lights were on, basically all the evidence a officer and a judge needs for a solid conviction.

 

As for solid citations, nothing bugs me more than states like New York. They have mandatory pre-trial conferences with the DA and automatically offer plea bargains, causing many solid convictions to be lost and the real issues around roadway safety (motorist behaviors) to not be properly documented.

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