LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A group of predominantly Hispanic community activists launched a campaign Wednesday to stop what they call “unfair towing practices” in Los Angeles County.
KNX 1070′s Megan Goldsby reports the Free Our Cars (Liberen Nuestros Autos) Coalition says families across the county are being victimized.
Activists like Pedro Joel Espinosa rallied outside the county Board of Supervisors building in downtown L.A. to share their personal stories about the economic cost of losing a car for driving without a license.
“Whenever we hear the police siren, our bodies tremble because there’s a genuine fear our cars are gonna get impounded,” Espinoza said.
The result can cost drivers over $1,000 and, in some areas of the county, could leave the driver without a vehicle for 30 days.
The Free Our Cars coalition – which includes members like Martin Hernandez, whose car has been impounded five times – said it will begin training immigrants across the region on their private property rights when stopped by police and engaging them in working to change policies in their respective cities.
But LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said police have heard the community’s complaints and dropped the 30-day policy last year, which has led to a 40 percent decrease in impounds city-wide, according to LAPD records.
“Laws change,” Neiman said. “We try to be as progressive, as fair and impartial as we can when we enforce the law.”
Last April, the Los Angeles police officers’ union sued the city and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck over the policy change, citing fears that officers could potentially be exposed to lawsuits if an unlicensed driver they stop later hurts or kills someone.
In an effort to send a message to other parts of the county, activists are asking anyone who has had their car impounded for driving without a license to share their story on the group’s website.
The coalition hopes to collect 1,000 stories similar to Espinoza’s this year as part of a grassroots mobilization effort.