Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Victimized TWICE In Minneapolis (Crackheads Or Tow Trucks, Take Your Pick)

Photo by John Hoff

So I was gone for about a week, there, picking up some money as a commercial driver on a five-state run and while I was out of town crackheads attacked one of my vehicles, no doubt due to my persistent 911 calls about drug dealing and prostitution on 6th Street North in Minneapolis. But the worst was yet to come...

So, yeah, things are admittedly pretty rough on the 3000 block of 6th Street North, which I've renamed Comprehensive Insurance Boulevard. Some months ago, I had four tires slashed, which was what made me get "comp" insurance in the first place. My car is a piece of junk, like most of the vehicles I've owned, as I mentioned in one of my very first posts, so normally comprehensive insurance would be a waste, right?

But after the four slashed tires, and my friend Peter Teachout getting his truck torched on the Fourth of July by crackheads, I figured "comp" was not such a waste, after all. When I left town, I asked Peter to watch my vehicle. I didn't expect him to, like, lay down his life and defend it or anything. Rather, I hoped if the vehicle was torched or tire-slashed or window-smashed, he'd call me and call the appropriate authorities.

I was in Olney, Indiana, buying Rotella Brand 15W-30 oil for the Thermo King unit on my beautiful International brand truck when Peter called me. There in the parking lot of Walmart, I learned about the two slashed tires (curbside) and a smashed window on the front passenger side (also curbside, same side). Why not more damage? I'm guessing the little coward who went after my vehicle did a bit of damage, then got scared and ran away.

But here was the worst part: the City of Minneapolis had tagged my car as an "inoperable vehicle" and they were now threatening--in a very impersonal way, of course--to tow it and cause me even more financial cost and personal headaches.

So here I am a victim of drug-selling, prostituting crack heads who routinely go after vehicles on Comprehensive Insurance Boulevard, and the City of Minneapolis is threatening to tow my "inoperable" vehicle. And why is the vehicle inoperable? Well, because it has two slashed tires which the City, in its impersonal power and bureaucratic glory, couldn't manage to protect, rather like it can't protect Peter's truck, and rather like it can't manage to shut down the NOTORIOUS CRACK HOUSE AND BROTHEL at 3020 6th St. N.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the parking lot of Walmart in Olney, Indiana.

God bless my friend Jeff Skrenes, the Housing Director of the Hawthorne Area Community Council (HACC) who has some kind of ability to get a car towed for free. (I'm not going to provide the details) He towed the car to, well, the alley parking spaces of a vacant, foreclosed house next to his own apartment. It was a lot of fun explaining THAT to the nice police officers who took my report about the vehicle while I was trying to get the two slashed tires off and put the car up on cinderblocks.

(I'm not going to say where I got the cinderblocks, either)

The officers were incredibly surly and unsmiling. Every piece of information I gave them seemed to make them increasingly suspicious even though--good grief!--I was the one who flagged them down in the alley to ask for a report to be made. (Though I think perhaps it was a neighbor who called about suspicious activity in the alley, and much to her credit)

Well, no matter. The cops took my information and gave me the precious police report number for my insurance company, which knew about the incident shortly after I knew about it, myself. (I called them from that same parking lot in Olney, Indiana) I don't want to criticize those cops too much. A few hours later, I saw those same two officers at the scene of a blazing house fire, caused by a driver fleeing with a stolen vehicle and crashing into the house. In fact, I have a picture and I'll be posting it here shortly.

It was nasty, filthy work getting those two tires off in the hot sun, then driving to my favorite mechanic at Highland Auto Tire, (couldn't patch, had to get new tires) then going back, putting the new tires on, (I love that new tire smell, though!) and then tossing a piece of insulation in the front seat to sit on, because the front seat was SO FULL OF GLASS.

A kid came along, riding his sister's bike, limping on a flat tire. My friend Jake was with me this whole time, shooting video for the documentary they are doing about the impact of the mortgage crisis on North Minneapolis. Jake helped the kid pump up his tire with my manual tire pump, while I was under my car messing around with a jack.

The bike tire had a slow leak, not unlike the slow leak which had long ago caused me to get that manual tire pump.

"Give the pump to the kid," I told Jake. "Just let him have it."

I drove to ABRA Auto Body and Glass while sitting on the insulation, and while I was waiting for an estimate to be completed, I snapped the picture above. The end results: I paid $110 for two new tires, an incredibly good deal. The replacement value of the window was $200, exactly what the car itself was worth. Minus my $50 deductable, American Family Insurance is mailing me a check for $260.

I plan to take that vehicle to my brother and trade it for another vehicle. Two incidents with the 1988 Celebrity is enough. Next time they'll probably go after the driver. (Oh, gee, that's me)

I can't blame a crackhead for being a crack head. I fight them constantly by taking pictures, calling 911, shooting video, and blogging on my other blog. Of course they're going to be mad and go after my vehicle, IF I'M LUCKY.

And yet with all this modern technology--enough so Minneapolis police officers can run a license plate, they can track down who owns the car--I can't get notified by cell phone and email of an impending tow after crackheads mess up my vehicle while I am out of town for a week. That's not right. I was victimized once by crackheads. I was victimized AGAIN by a plodding, impersonal system which stupidly, crudely, ruthlessly snatches cars off the street without any real smarts.

Minneapolis was what made me start this blog. And this week Minneapolis helped convince me must continue to raise these issues.

I was fortunate. My vehicle didn't get torched like Peter's truck. Other citizens suffer worse and do not have a blog to make their voice heard. For those citizens, I will continue to fight abusive and predatory towing practices.

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