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City council votes to not charge crime victims towing or storage fees

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A woman who was victimized once, said she feels like a victim again.

Joyce Howard was shot in the head while sitting in her driver's seat at Luxx Lounge in East Memphis last month. Her car was towed as evidence, and then she was charged hundreds of dollars in fees when she went to retrieve it.

"The bullet was still inside my vehicle. I was sitting in my vehicle. That's why they had to take it in and process it. I understand that," Howard said.

What she doesn't understand is the bill she received stating she'll have to fork over $125 in towing fees, $30 for each day her car sat in the city's impound lot and a $10 administrative fee.

"I'm like are they serious? Maybe it's just part of the paperwork process?" Howard said.

So she called the number listed to challenge the charges.

After about a week and dozens of calls, Howard finally got those charges dropped.

"It shouldn't be an argument. I shouldn't have to fight," she said.

Across town, Shekita Givens said she got that same letter eight days after her husband was shot and killed in June and police towed his car.

"I'm just sitting here thinking about it. I have no words," said Givens. "When I called the Memphis Police impound lot, they told me to speak to the attorney. I called his office, but didn't get an answer."

After a lengthy fight, everything but the $10 administrative fee was waived.

Time and time again, WREG told you similar stories.

Like a woman who said she got the letter after police recovered her stolen car.

Another man told us he was charged $165 when he went to get his car hit in a shootout.

Memphis Police declined our request for an interview.

Instead, they sent a statement that said anytime a vehicle is towed to the city lot as evidence or not, a letter is mailed "with an estimated fee for what it will cost the owner to retrieve it."

"...The amount is only an estimate and can be adjusted upon release of the vehicle."

MPD went on to say if it's a stolen vehicle, the owner has five days to get the car before a $30 a day storage fee kicks in.

The $125 towing fee is required, because MPD has to pay the towing company.

We took our findings to council Chairman Berlin Boyd.

"The last thing the city wants to do is put you back in that position, so that you can feel like a victim twice," he said.

Earlier this year, Boyd drafted an ordinance dropping towing and storage fees for people who had their cars stolen and then recovered.

He amended his ordinance to include all crime victims and loved ones, to make sure people like Howard and Givens never have to fight any charges.

"Now we put it in writing and put an ordinance in place. Hopefully it helps a lot of citizens facing devastation," Boyd said.

Boyd presented that ordinance for the third and final reading Tuesday. It passed unanimously.

Boyd said he spoke to MPD and doesn't think this change will cost that much money.

He did point out: if the victim doesn't get the car within five days after being notified, they will be charged the fees.

We called several police departments across the country, it was pretty split on what they do.

Some don't charge anything, while others go by a case-to-case basis.

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