Mayor, Chief announce major police towing reforms; auto theft victims now will have towing and storage fees waived
Victims of auto theft in Detroit no longer will victimized a second time by having to pay excessive impound and storage fees to recover their vehicles, Mayor Mike Duggan and Chief James White announced today. The announcement comes one day after Detroit City Council approved new contracts for seven private towing companies that will share towing responsibilities with DPD’s internal towing unit. The new contracts for the following towing companies will go into effect next Monday:
No cost recovery of stolen vehicles
Previously, recovered stolen vehicles were taken either to a private storage yard or to DPD’s storage yard. While DPD had a policy to allow for the waiving of fees for auto theft victims, private lots cannot be required to. Under the new towing arrangement, all reported stolen vehicles recovered by any tower will be taken to DPD’s storage lot. If the stolen vehicle is towed by a private company, DPD will pay that company for the tow so the owner does not have to. If the owner of the stolen vehicle recovers it from the city lot, DPD will waive all towing and storage fees (insurance companies still will have to pay for a release).
“For too long, the victims of car theft in this town were victimized a second time by having to pay towing and storage fees sometimes into the thousands of dollars to recover their vehicle, which also likely has costly damage from the theft,” said Mayor Duggan. “I am proud that Chief White and City Council have put an end to that practice once and for all.”
Fees to recover a stolen vehicle can range from about $200 – if the vehicle is recovered by the owner the same day – to thousands of dollars for vehicles that are in the lot for an extended period before being recovered.
Police tows now distributed by automated system
The new auto theft recovery policy is just the latest in a series of reforms implemented by the Detroit Police Department this year, including a new computer-generated towing rotation to remove the opportunity for favoritism.
Anytime an officer encounters a vehicle that a LEIN search shows has been reported stolen, he or she will request a tow through the towing management software system, which has been designed to dispatch tows on a rotation. As part of it’s prior reforms, DPD established its own towing unit and will handle about 35%-40% of DPDs roughly 600 weekly tows, with the rest being distributed equitably among the private companies.
“It’s important to the integrity of this process that the officer requesting the tow does it through the computerized rotation process,” said Chief White. “They don’t call anyone and have no discretion of their own, so there is no intentional or unintentional opportunity to play favorites.”
Vehicles that have not been reported stolen towed by private companies can be taken to private lots and charged a rate not to exceed those established by City Council.
Other reforms now in place
In addition to waiving fees to recover stolen vehicles and putting safeguards in place to prevent favoritism in the distribution of police towing runs, DPD also has implemented several other reforms to add transparency and accountability to the towing process:
- Vehicle Status Tracking: From the time it is towed to the time it is recovered or auctioned, DPD tracks the disposition of every vehicle, logging any changes in a searchable, auditable database.
- Vehicle Condition Tracking: DPD also records the condition of the vehicle from the time it is impounded to the time it is release to determine whether any damage occurred while it was in the custody of DPD or the private company. Each car is inspected for various types of internal and external damage, such as dents, scratches or missing parts.
- Improved auction process: The process of determining which cars go to auction and when also has been automated to eliminate the opportunity for manipulating the auction process. The new towing management system now determines when a vehicle will go to auction, based largely on the amount of time it has spent in the lot to make sure cars don’t sit for extended periods of time.
- Public Website: Vehicle owners are now able to track the location and status of their vehicle, including current recovery costs by visiting www.FindMyTowedCar.Org and entering in vehicle information.
“We are proud of the work our officers have done to restore the public’s confidence in our police towing operation and we will continue to seek opportunities for additional changes,” Chief White said.