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Akron eliminates $15 towing fee over concerns of stolen vehicle victims paying to get cars back

Akron police cruiser
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
People whose cars were towed by Akron police will no longer have to pay to get them back.

People whose vehicles have been towed by Akron police no longer have to pay a city fee to get them back.

Akron City Council voted to remove the mandatory $15 towing release fee Monday night. The ordinance was on the consent agenda, which passed 11 to 0. Councilmember Tara Mosley abstained.

Ward 7 Councilmember Donnie Kammer, chair of council’s public safety committee, brought forth the legislation in June in response to concerns from the police department that crime victims were being retraumatized in the process of getting their car back. Kammer was not present for the vote on July 17.

Police must sometimes tow vehicles that have been stolen or carjacked. Often, the actual car owners were responsible for retrieving their stolen vehicle and paying the fee, said Akron Police Captain Augie Micozzi.

“We had a lot of victims and their families coming in, and they’re trying to get their car out, and now we’re charging them a $15 fee, in essence, making them a victim once again,” Micozzi said. “Especially for those people who were not directly involved in anything that went on, or in some cases where their loved one is really seriously injured and unable to get it themselves, and now we’re asking them for a fee.”

The fee had to be paid at the city clerk’s office, not at the towing company, so it was a “hassle” for crime victims to make multiple stops in order to retrieve their cars, Micozzi added.

For some time, city officials have tried to use discretion and release vehicles to crime victims without requiring them to pay the fee, but that may not be the best long-term solution, he said.

“How do we make those decisions? If somebody asks about it, do we waive it? Or how does that work?” Micozzi said. “There’s a little bit too much back-and-forth on this.”

Micozzi and Councilmember Kammer are both members of Akron’s Towing Review Board, which oversees the city’s towing companies and policies. The board decided suspending the $15 fee is the best option moving forward, Micozzi said.

The ordinance will eliminate the fee for anyone, not just crime victims, he added.

Individuals will still need to bring a photo identification, proof of ownership and receipt of parking fees if applicable in order to retrieve their vehicle, according to the ordinance.

Other cities, including Cleveland, charge small fees to recover towed vehicles.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.