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Carjacking victims feel traumatized twice, by the crime and towing fees

Akron councilwoman considering legislation to bring relief
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Posted at 8:10 AM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 23:36:24-04

AKRON, Ohio — It's a crime that can happen to unsuspecting drivers in an instant and send shivers down the spines of both the victims and their families: carjackings.

For some who experience that harrowing ordeal, the feeling of their lives flashing before their eyes is only the first part of victimization. Many feel victimized a second time when they're forced to shell out big bucks to get their cars back from towing yards.

A 39-year-old Akron woman, who did not want her name used, said she experienced that frustration after her husband was carjacked at gunpoint earlier this year.

The incident happened in March on Wren Walk in East Akron. A DoorDash delivery driver had just returned home late at night when a man wearing a white surgical mask ran from behind a dumpster and forced his way into the victim's Kia Spectra.

"He had a gun pointed to his head telling him, 'Take me to an ATM,'" his wife told News 5.

The driver was ordered to drive a Fifth Third ATM on Arlington Road in Green where he took out $200.

After that, the gunman forced the victim to make multiple turns for 15 to 20 minutes before he was forced out of the car at Johnston and Inman streets and ordered to lay face down. His wallet and phone were also stolen before the carjacker took off in the vehicle.

He then walked home— a little over a mile— and explained what happened to his stunned wife.

"It was scary," she said. "Anything could have happened to him where I'm stuck with three kids by myself and no husband."

About a week later, police found the stolen car and it was towed by Greg's Towing.

Originally, the victim's wife was told it would cost more than $300 to get the vehicle back. She complained and the price was lowered to around $170, but she couldn't understand why she had to pay a dime.

"I said, I'm the victim here. Why I got to pay so much for me to get it back? It was stolen from me," she said. "I do feel victimized twice because my car was stolen. I couldn't get around to go to the store. None of that. I have kids I got to take care of."

Sam Gillman shared similar concerns to New 5.

In June, while working as an Uber Eats delivery driver, she was dragged and suffered road rash in the parking lot of Timber Top apartments moments after dropping off a food order.

Gillman tried to hang onto her Chevy Impala as the female thief took off in the car.

"I was scared out of mind. I didn't know what was going to happen. All I seen was car, then cement, and I thought for sure I was done. I thought I was going to leave my kids motherless."

Her car was located and towed by Bowers Towing. She said her bill shocked her.

"My tow bill was $245 for just a day being there— not even a full day— and my locksmith, because I had to have the locksmith come out and make the key at the tow yard, was $202, Gillman said.

Sue Young, a manager at Greg's Towing, understands why carjacking victims are fed up, but said it's the city of Akron that set prices through police towing laws.

"It's a business end here and we had to send people out to do the work so we have to pay our people and keep the company running here," Young said.

According to Akron Councilwoman Tara Mosley, the city has a set rate of $125 with six towing companies when police make a request for a standard tow, and $15 per day for storage fees. Additional fees can tacked on if flatbeds are used, clean up of fluids is required or if a dolly is used.

In New Orleans, city leaders heard the same concerns from carjacking victims. Councilman Joe Giarusso pushed for changes calling it "absurd" to charge people for towing and storage fees.

"I don't think a city should be profiting on the misfortune that happens to its residents," Giarusso said.

Earlier this year, New Orleans passed legislation so that carjacking victims— or car theft victims— would no longer have to pay to get their cars back. Instead, a city fund pays the tow yards.

"Whether it's a carjacking, stolen, whatever the case my be, we want to make sure that people just don't have to pay the fee," Giarusso said. "The tow company is not going to lose money. They may be delayed in getting their money because cities don't pay as quickly as people who want their cars back, but that's the cost of doing business in my view."

After hearing about the frustration from Akron residents who spoke to News 5 and leaning about the law in New Orleans, Mosley said she's considering proposing similar legislation that would provide relief to carjacking victims.

"We set the rates so we should set a standard where if someone is victimized that we make sure they're okay and we pay those fees for them," Mosley said.

The man who was carjacked on Wren Walk doesn't deliver for DoorDash anymore, according to his wife.

She hopes Akron makes what she calls "common sense" changes so that victims whose lives are threatened during a carjacking don't feel victimized a second time.

"I think they should pass the law in Ohio. If we get victimized or carjacked, we should get our car back for free."

According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, some insurance plans cover the costs associated with towing fees, but many of those are subject to deductibles so victims often pay most or all of the fees out of pocket.