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City Council Members push legislation to save carjacking victims from illegal towing and impound fees

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 10:47 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2022 at 6:25 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - City Council Members are stepping in to stop victims of carjackings and theft from having to pay to recover their vehicles, something that’s against state law.

“A bad experience after an original bad experience,” one car theft victim said.

He asked to remain anonymous but says he just had to pay $257.60 in cash to recover his car.

“If I hadn’t been able to get cash that day they would have charged me a fee on top of that for every day they held the car,” he said. “If they are breaking the law, there definitely should be something done about that.”

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The Fox 8 Defenders first highlighted this concern 10 years ago, when a car theft victim never was able to pay thousands of dollars in fees to get his truck back from the tow lot after it was taken on a destructive rampage.

“I felt more victimized not by the people who stole it, but by the whole process of you know trying to locate the vehicle,” the victim said.

Since then, in 2017, when she was in the State Legislature, Council President Helena Moreno sponsored an amendment to the Victims’ Bill of Rights to ensure this didn’t happen.

“That is what the City is in violation of,” Moreno said. “It’s a whole series of different things that allow victims to make sure they aren’t unduly punished because they are the victim of a crime.”

It says the property should be returned at no cost to the victim, but earlier this week, we showed you-- at least in New Orleans-- it’s still costing them.

That victim says the towing company is charging him more than $450 dollars just to get his totaled truck back.

Moreno sent the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, Gilbert Montano, a letter on Monday informing him it’s against the law and calling the practice callous and wrong.

Also, making a promise that she and Councilmember Joe Giarrusso are now following through with.

“The two parts of this are making sure, going forward, if it happens, nobody’s charged and then the recourse part of this, if you have been charged in the last few years, that you can tap into that fund,” Giarrusso said.

The Councilmembers introduced items looking to create a fund that would direct the CAO to fully reimburse victims. The plan also calls for prohibiting impound fees or parking tickets for victims from now on.

“Now, we have to correct the wrong that the City did to charge these individuals, not even individuals, these victims of crime to get their stolen property back,” Moreno said.

Now that these items have been introduced, Giarrusso says they have to sit for six days, then they go to committee, which he wants to do next week so that they can be moved as quickly as possible in front of the full council on February 17.

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