New policy helps car theft victims avoid tow fees

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was 11 pm on Memorial Day weekend when Sarah Wines and her six-year-old daughter found thieves had broken into her car and left it undriveable at the Holgate Boulevard Park & Ride.

When she came back the next day to get her car, it was gone. She made a police report.

“And then they said if we find the car we’ll give you a call,” Wines tells KOIN 6 News. 

Her car was found two days later and police did give her a call, but after it was already towed. She then got a bill from the tow company for $200.

“It was really frustrating because I just purchased the car, it was only $700 dollars, so coming up with almost half of that money, I mean I don’t think it’s even worth that much,” Wines said.

In February, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he proposed new rules that would allow car theft victims to avoid a tow fee by indicating on the police report whether the car should be left where it is found and police notify them.

He wanted the change to go beyond Portland.

“So I think it’s really important that all of our law enforcement agencies in the metro area get together and have consistent standards,” Wheeler said. 

No one at the state level addressed the problems.

“I wasn’t even aware of what the policy was,” Wines said.

But KOIN 6 has learned that last Friday, five days after Sarah’s car was stolen, Portland’s police chief approved the new towing policy. Under the new rules, Portland Police will leave a stolen car where they find it and give the owner a call, email and text if that’s what’s indicated on the police report. 

If the owner instructs police to have the car towed, police will still try to contact the owner for at least an hour. Under the new policy, Portland Police would follow the same procedure for cars reported stolen in other jurisdictions, but found inside the city.

The new policy goes into effect July 1. 

Hopefully, in the future, the policy will help people like Wines from feeling like victims – twice. 

“Coming up with that much money is really difficult for me right now,” Wines said. 

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