A car theft victim says he feels like he's been robbed twice: First by whoever stole his car, then by the city that charged him nearly $300 to get his vehicle back.
Los Angeles resident Conrad Romo’s Honda Civic was snatched off the street less than a block from his home in early March. Police officers recovered the car five days later, less than a mile away.
“And I’m happy about that,” Romo told the NBC4 I-Team.
His happiness evaporated when he arrived at the nearby police impound location to pick up the car.
“That’s where I had my rude awakening,” Romo said, describing the bill he was handed for $277.80.
Romo paid $121 for his car to be towed less than a mile. He was also charged a $115 “vehicle release fee” and $38 for a one-day storage fee.
“I empathize with the situation,” said Los Angeles Police Detective Joe Yamzon, who works at the L.A. Police Commission, which regulates and set the towing and storage rates and policies for the city’s 18 Official Police Garages (OPGs).
Yamzon told the NBC4 I-Team that officers can’t simply leave a stolen car on the street, but said that when they recover a stolen vehicle, they try to reach the owner immediately.
“If they can respond to the scene, then they can release that vehicle at the scene, if it’s feasible,” Yamzon explained.
Romo said he never got a call or voice mail from the LAPD, which could be because the contact information on his DMV records are out of date.
Jay Beeber, co-director of the L.A. Parking Freedom Initiative, which advocates for fair parking violation and tow fees, takes issue with the amount the city charges.
“It’s an extra tax just for getting your car stolen,” Beeber told the I-Team. “We have to look at that.”
Yamzon says the rates are reasonable.
“If a regular private company were to tow your vehicle, they can charge an exorbitant amount,” he said.
The I-Team reached out to 10 Los Angeles towing services to put that claim to the test. To tow a Honda Civic less than a mile, NBC4 was quoted prices ranging from $49 to $95 — all less than the city’s $121 per hour rate.
Romo says there has to be a “kinder, gentler” way of treating a citizen.
“I feel like I got robbed a couple times,” he said.
The one bright spot: insurance companies will often cover the costs associated with car theft if your policy includes comprehensive coverage. Prepare to be liable for any deductible dictated by your plan.
To learn about car insurance in California, visit this information guide.