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Good Question Exclusive: Will Rochester change a controversial policy?

Pat Taney
Updated: September 30, 2019 08:24 AM
Created: September 30, 2019 07:59 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One of your questions is helping to change one city ordinance. 

Pat Taney was asked about certain fees charged to crime victims for this week's Good Question report. He found out, the city is now changing its tune.

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It's a double surprise for car theft victims in Rochester. First, the shock of seeing their vehicle gone. Then, they have to pay to get it back!

After investigating this issue for years, News10NBC found out a change is being made. 

It was prompted after a question sent to us by Meli Wilcox whose car was stolen in Rochester.

"I was helping a friend move into an apartment," she said. "I went to leave the next morning, and my car was gone."

Wilcox reported it to Rochester Police.

"They came, took a couple of questions, and then I did not hear anything," she said.

Days later, her mom got a letter in the mail.

"The letter stated that I needed to come pick up my car from the impound lot," she said.

Taney: You had no idea it was there after reporting it?

Wilcox: No. There was no other communication other than that letter days later which told me to just come get your car.

She quickly went to the city's impound lot where she had to pay to get it back.

"In the end, it was $300," Wilcox said.

She was charged for the towing and storage fees despite not knowing where it was for three days.

Even worse? Her car was totaled.

Taney: So you had to pay to get your totaled car out of the lot?

Wilcox: Yes.

She's not alone. Currently, if your car gets stolen, you have to pay the towing and storage fees to get it back.

It's been a policy in the City of Rochester since 2007.

Back in 2016, News10NBC's Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean brought it to the city's attention. Mayor Lovely Warren told him she'd look into it. 

Warren: Well at this point in time, I cannot break the law. But I can advocate for reviewing the law and make sure it is one that is just and equally applied. So I'll go back and take a look at that. I'll talk to the chief of police about that as well.

Brean: When do you think you can do that? 

Warren: Well you just talked to me about it, and so I'll go and talk to him about it.  

Again that was back in 2016. Nothing has changed. So, we reached back out to the city to find out why.

In a statement, City Spokesperson Justin Roj thanked us for bringing it back up and said, based on our inquiry, the city will now work to make a change.

"The city is currently researching the matter and will be eliminating fees for owners of stolen vehicles by the end of the year," Roj said.

The city is looking at how to get it done. Leaders will either have the police chief change policy or if needed, issue a proposal to the city council to make the change.

Wilcox said it's long overdue.

"I'm the victim of a crime," Wilcox said. "Why do I have to pay for someone else's crime?"

Again, the rule is in place until at least the end of the year. If your car is stolen, you can check with your insurance company to see if they'll reimburse some towing and storage fees.

If you have a question you'd like answered, email GoodQuestion@whec.com.


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