Victimizing the victim

By Jeffrey Fazio
Special Sections Writer

A month and a half ago, I was away racing for the weekend and I came home to a very unpleasant surprise. The car I use for daily driving was gone. Gone. Stolen. Not where I left it.

I stood blankly staring in disbelief at the empty parking spot where I had left the car a mere two days earlier. My mind started flipping through scenarios faster than a hyperactive kid flipping through TV channels.

Did I leave it at work? No.
Did I leave it at my mechanic's place? No.
Did I park it somewhere else? No.
Did someone borrow it? No.
Am I going crazy? Maybe.
So where did I leave the car? Right there, but it's not there.

I went inside and looked out my front window one more time at that ominously vacant parking spot. Even from inside, the car was still gone. It couldn't be gone. It was.

I checked my voice messages. low and behold the third message was from a City of Reading police officer. He was calling to let me know that they had found my car the previous night in south Reading on fire. He was curious if I knew anything about this or if I knew who might have had my car. I didn't.

Upon returning the police officer's phone call, I learned that this "happens all the time in the city." They've got to be kidding, right? I mean people double park "all the time" in the city, they can't mean "all the time" in that same context, could they?

They took down my information and filed the report. It cost me $15 to get a copy of this report. I was then informed that a local towing company had possession of my car and I had to contact them to resolve the towing bill. What?

That's right. I was away for the weekend. My car was stolen, left somewhere I did not want it and it was set on fire, but I have to pay the bill for it being towed. Isn't life grand?

So I call the towing company. They inform me that I owe them $85 for the towing and $30 per day for storage. This has got to be a joke.

I never wanted my car at their towing yard. Not only did I have to pay to have my car towed from a place I did not put it, but now I had to pay to store it at a place I did not take it. Talk about victimizing the victim.

Hold on to the chair folks, this gets better.
Next, they inform me that I cannot resolve the towing and storage fees until I get the city to release the car back to me. What?

Apparently when something like this happens, the city takes possession of the property and the victim must pay $10 to have it released back to them. This isn't a joke, this is reality.

That Monday morning I got up early and did the necessary running around. I pay the city $10 to release the car and I run over to the towing yard and pay the $85 I owed for the towing.

The night before I had gone to the towing yard to take some photos of my car. This visit was only 14 hours later and there w ere already two more burned-out cars that had been added to the towing yard. When I asked about this, the lady at the towing yard explained, "It happens all the time."

How is that we live in a society that cars being stolen and burned is commonplace? The police simply take down your report with as much empathy and surprise as a waiter taking your lunch order. The people at the towing yards are as shocked by your loss as a dentist who finds a cavity. This whole business is just part of their day. Next please.

I asked them what was going to happen to my car. They said I needed to have it removed or I could sign the title over to them so they could junk it. They graciously offered to waive the accrued storage fees if I signed the car over.

Needless to say, I was not at a point to weigh the options of having the car taken somewhere else so I just accepted the loss and signed over the title to end this nightmare. In hindsight, that was a mistake since the car did still have some value (new tires, good wheels and the engine was most likely fine).

With the connections I have in the car world I had more options than I realized for storing and parting out this car. I wish that I wouldn't have been pressured to make such a quick decision, but that is our system. It truly victimizes the victim.

When it was all said and done, I paid $110 to have my car stolen. I'm sure I could have found a better deal if I shopped around first.