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New Ordinance Would Stop City From Charging Carjacking Victims Hundreds In Towing And Storage Fees

If your car ends up in a city lot after it was stolen, you can be charged a $150 tow fee and a $25 per day storage fee. The city lets victims appeal to get their money back, but they shouldn't have to, one alderman says.

A car on a tow truck at one of the city's auto pound at 701 N. Sacramento Blvd. in East Garfield Park.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO – Aldermen are hoping to end the practice of charging carjacking victims hundreds of dollars to retrieve their stolen vehicles from city impound lots.

The city charges a $150 towing fee and a $25 daily storage fee, up to $1,000. If your car was towed to a city-owned lot after it was stolen, you must pay the fees to retrieve it, although you may request an administrative hearing and have the money returned if the city agrees that it was stolen.

Credit: Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) at a City Council meeting in February 2020.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) introduced a measure this week that would stop the charges altogether. He devised the ordinance after hearing from a constituent had their car stolen, only to show up to a city impound lot and be faced with the fees. 

“I was unaware of it, that we charged rental and towing fees, so when I learned about it, I introduced this ordinance to try and correct the wrong,” he said. “You’re a law-abiding citizen and you get your car stolen? I think that’s absolutely crazy.”

The ordinance says no fees should be charged to retrieve a car that was stolen if the owner or “other person entitled to possession of a vehicle” signs an affidavit affirming the “tow in question was the direct result of such crime” and presents a copy of a police report documenting the theft.

Not everyone will know that you can appeal the fees and they shouldn’t have “to take time out of your day to go appeal it,” Daley Thompson said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a question asking if she supports the ordinance. 

Since taking office, Lightfoot worked with City Clerk Anna Valencia to reform the city’s towing, fines, fees and collection practices for motor vehicle violations.

In September 2019, City Council voted 49-1 to stop seeking license suspensions over unpaid parking tickets, restructure its ticket payment plan for those unable to pay upfront costs, and lowered the penalty, from $200 to $50, for those who fail to purchase an annual city sticker. 

Daley Thompson was the lone alderperson to vote against the reforms, which city officials at the time estimated would cost the city $15 million in lost revenue from the fines and fees, according to a report from NPR and ProPublica.

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