Saturday, August 16, 2008

Escondido, Calif. Continues To Rake In $$$ From Abusive Towing Checkpoints photo

An article by reporter Edward Sifuentes of the North County Times gives more details of the checkpoints in Escondido which I blogged about earlier, click here and here, plus the article sparked a fiery discussion in online comments...

Some of the comments provided interesting details and arguement about the situation with the checkpoints, though it was mostly an unproductive debate about immigration policy; with the usual sides staking out their usual positions. As I've said before, with the Abbey Court situation in North Carolina: don't get sidetracked by who is being targeted and all the other issues wrapped up in that targeting. Instead, focus on whether the towing practice is INHERENTLY ABUSIVE AND PREDATORY.

But first of all, before I start digging around in the virtual muck, let us pause for a serene moment of reflection and architectural appreciation. CHECK OUT this gorgeous Escondido City Hall building! Would you think a relatively small city like Escondido would have something this nice? I tell ya, a lot of city revenue must have gone into THAT.

Now back to pawing around in the muck. Here is a sifting of the commentary which resulted from Sifuente's informative article.

* One commentator was gleeful there was finally a [financial] upside from "illegal alien drivers," and said "Let's have more of these checkpoints all across the country."

* A particularly informed commenter called "Escondeeter" said tow company fees and city fees are not BOTH revenue to the city of Escondido. The towing and storage fees go to the tow company. So any reference to "three million dollars" worth of business is money going to the towing companies, not the city.

Further, says "Escondeeter," since the towing companies pay a fat fee to the city they are NOT paying the city a "per vehicle fee" or a "percentage of their tow fees" as is the practice in some other cities. Escondeeter asserts (but does not provide proof) that the "bulk" of the towing companies' business with the city "comes from towing vehicles disabled as a result of traffic accidents or mechanical failure and from towing abandoned vehicles."

Sounds like "Escondeeter" knows quite a bit about the local towing industry. Hmmmm. Hmmmm. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

* One poster asserted--without hard proof--that after 30 days the towing companies were releasing the vehicles to drivers with a valid license, even if those drivers weren't necessarily the registered owner of the vehicle. The poster asserted these vehicles were ending up right back on the road without a licensed driver behind the wheel.

Well, that means the city has a chance to catch the vehicle AGAIN and both the city and towing companies have another chance to make revenue. (I direct your attention, once again, to that really lovely city hall building, above) From a certain point of view you might say, "Everybody wins." But especially the towing companies (first) and city hall (second).

* A poster named Deatris was supportive of the checkpoints, but had a problem with the towing companies using the checkpoints to rake in money "hand over fist." Deatris said, "They [the towing companies] are the biggest crooks out there." (Apparently Deatris meant even in comparison to drivers without insurance or a license)

Deatris said, "I was recently in an accident and had to have my vehicle towed to El Norte tow yard. I had the vehicle removed from their yard not more than a half hour later. They not only charged me a $75 towing fee for towing [the vehicle] two miles but they stuck me with a $300 storage fee...for having the vehicle on their lot for a half hour. What a bunch of [mild expletive]."

* A poster named "januaryM" asserted the City of Escondido had incurred a bill of $50,000 for a study about parking problems, only to discover there were no parking problems. The poster asserted "election games" were being played around the issue of parking.

* Another shill for a towing company said, "How about costs" and listed some of the costs of operating a towing service. Flying in the face of common knowledge about world scrap metal prices versus junked vehicles, the shill said, "Then there's the problem of write-offs...people with a five hundred buck car bought on a street corner who just walk away and leave the tow company stuck with the costs of disposing of the car."

Here are the facts: My own brother manages to make a very good living by paying $200 per vehicle, stripping out copper radiators (on older model cars) and catalytic converters, plus oil and gasoline, and selling the vehicles for scrap. So being able to haul off one of those $500 cars is a bonus, not an unexpected expense.

Sure, one might have to "write off" storage fees, but those weren't real costs, anyway, just outrageous revenues which weren't collected. The junk vehicles are still a sweet little source of profit, and it's insulting to the intelligence of the public to pretend otherwise.

* A poster named "Josh" asserts the towing and storage fees charged by Escondido ($150 towing and $30 per day storage) are "the lowest in any North County San Diego City." In Josh's argument, one sees a drastic limitation on the comparison being made. Oh, and no actual comparison figures are thrown out, either.

* "Escondido Surfer" supported the checkpoints, but thought it was "outrageous" to impound a vehicle for 30 days once the problems associated with the seizure have been solved. Who is being enriched? Private towing companies. Josh said, "[T]hese private storage yards are criminal enterprises enabled by the city."

* A poster from Oceanside asserted the Oceanside Police Department once estimated there were 10,000 unlicensed drivers in Oceanside alone. And to this I respond: Be quiet. Some politician will have a heart attack, just THINKING about all that revenue. (I direct your attention, once again, to the lovely building pictured at the top)

* Citizen X said, "I agree with taking unlicensed drivers off the streets, but why the exorbitant fees? You all know it's about the MONEY."

* A poster named Yolie wrapped up the chat with a good point: You would have to be blind to justice to ignore the excessive penalties and fees being assessed through vehicle confiscation. It's an unchecked travesty just like spiraling gas prices.


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