Escondido Towing Business Breaks Even: City

ACLU accused Escondido police of using their checkpoints for immigration purposes

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    A controversial towing service accused of reaping the benefits of DUI checkpoints said Friday the service does not profit, but merely breaks even.

    The City of Escondido announced earlier this month it would review its police department after the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns over the department's towing program. The city contracts several towing companies to impound the cars of accused drivers.

    Escondido Towing Business Breaks Even: City

    [DGO] Escondido Towing Business Breaks Even: City
    A controversial towing service accused of reaping the benefits of DUI checkpoints said Friday the service does not profit, but merely breaks even. (Published Friday, March 30, 2012)

    ACLU Executive Director Kevin Keenan said in a previous interview with NBC San Diego they have been concerned with the misuse of checkpoints for years. They believe Escondido is using theirs to target undocumented immigrants without licenses, and subsequently benefitting financially from the checkpoints by using their own towing service.

    The internal review by the city's Finance Department was released Friday morning. In the eight-page document, the city states the revenue collected from the towing companies is equal to the expenses of the towing program.

    Group Demands North County Police Audit

    [DGO] Group Demands North County Police Audit
    Kevin Keenan with the ACLU tells NBC 7 reporter Diana Guevara that a report demonstrates police are violating state law with its impound practices. (Published Tuesday, March 13, 2012)

    Though the police department did net about $365,000 from impound fees in 2010-11, the cost of impounding these vehicles is about $610,000 in 2010-11, the report says.

    The shortfall is covered by the towing companies which the city contracts. Those fees provided about $400,000 in that year. Combined with the cost to administer the program, the books balance out, according to the city's report.

    “The report supports the belief that the Police Department was correct in the way they have been assessing the towing fees," said Escondido's City Manager Clay Phillips. "However, it does reveal that the fees should be reviewed on an annual basis and we will do so.” 

    In the past year, the city's report shows them charging $50,000 per year more than the previous year. This was to cover the "current trend of decreasing impounds," the summary read.

    In response to the city's report, the ACLU said they are still concerned about the transparency and accountability of the checkpoint program.

    The group's response lists a number of ommissions they believe in the city's report, such as a $2,500 application fee they say each tow company had to pay to contract with the city.

    In the ACLU report “Wrong Turn: Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined”, ACLU alleges that Escondido has been creating new expenses to charge higher tow truck fees and then pocket the rest.

    Chief Jim Maher told our media partner the North County Times that the report is biased and is aimed at stopping the department's checkpoints. He also said the checkpoints are used to make Escondido streets safer, not to generate money for the city.

    Check back for more details on and responses to the report, and watch NBC 7 San Diego at 4 p.m. for Diana Guevara's report. 

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