Auto theft victims: We’re victimized twice when we are responsible for paying to get our stolen car out of the impound


CHARLOTTE, NC – In the latest crime numbers report for the third quarter of 2022, one area where crime is increasing is in auto theft and one Charlotte man said that in addition to having the car stolen, he had to pay to get his car from the impound.

Jacob Ruhl’s car was stolen on Tuesday, December 6th, when he ran inside to get a delivery order from the McDonald’s on Wendover Road. At the time of the crime, his support dog, Mama, was inside of the car. He said:

“I went in there for three or four minutes and I came back out with the food. And the car with Mama, my dog, was gone.”

Ruhl immediately called 911 to report what had happened. He added:

“When the car was recovered, they told me ‘there’s no dog in the car and the car is inoperable’ They’re telling me that I have to pay to get it out and the car runs. It’s not totaled.”

Ruhl believes that he should not have had to pay to get his car from the impound since he was a victim of auto theft.

According to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) spokesperson, the stolen car was involved in a crash, which is why it was automatically towed.

They said it would be a civil matter if the victim wanted to recoup the cost of getting his car out, which as of Friday, December 9th, was $295. Ruhl said that he does not have the funds to get his car, adding:

“In no way, shape, or form, I should pay anybody, anything. I was taken from and now I’m being taken from more out of my pocket.”

On a better note, Ruhl said that after receiving a tip, he and his girlfriend were able to locate Mama at a park the very next day. He said:

“Whatever happens to me and my problems and my bills and stuff, can all be fixed with money. But, she’s irreplaceable.”

An employee at Hunter Auto and Wrecker said that Ruhl would accrue $35 for each day that his car sits in their lot. Eventually, Ruhl was able to pay and got his car back.

Not all cities re-victimize their residents who have been victims of a crime. In Detroit, Michigan, the mayor and police chief announced major towing reforms, stating that auto theft victims will now have towing and storage fees waived.

The announcement came shortly after the Detroit City Council approved new contracts with seven private towing companies that will share towing responsibilities with Detroit Police Department’s internal towing unit.

Prior to this announcement, recovered stolen vehicles were taken either to a private storage yard or to Detroit Police Department’s storage yard. While the Detroit Police Department (DPD) had a policy to allow for the waiving of fees for auto theft victims, private lots were not required to wave any fees.

Now, under the new towing agreement, 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 cover that expense and pay the company for the tow so that 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. Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement:

“For too long, the victims of car theft 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.”

He added:

“I am proud that Chief James White and City Council have put an end to that practice once and for all.”

In the state of Illinois, several new laws will take effect on January 1, 2023 after carjackings have increased 767 percent.

The laws are aimed to prevent vehicle thefts and carjackings. The first law makes it illegal to possess anything that unlocks or starts a car, other than a key fob, without the permission of the owner. Such devices are now considered burglary tools.

Another law ensures that carjacking victims will no longer be liable for violations or fees involving their stolen vehicles.

The third provision that goes into effect provides grants and financial support to municipalities to assist with the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of carjackers and the recovery of stolen vehicles.

With certain Kia and Hyundai models the most at risk, Illinois has seen a 767 percent increase in vehicle thefts over the last year. So far in 2022, more than 1,300 carjackings have been reported in the Chicago area.

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