In many parts of Long Beach, finding parking can be difficult and for many residents, this can mean more than just getting at ticket. For the many folks who are broke, have strict work schedules, or are undocumented immigrants, having the family vehicle impounded can be detrimental to survival.
Long Beach is Part of L.A. County, but according to Pedro Espinoza, the Mobile Voices Organizer for The Institute for Popular Education for Southern California (IDEPSCA), Long Beach police have not been adhering to county policy and placing an unfair burden on working class and undocumented residents.
“We believe that because of the area in which this is happening, and the behavior of the officer in question, that this is a situation of racial profiling,” Espinoza said.
[pullquote]“We believe that because of the area in which this is happening, and the behavior of the officer in question, that this is a situation of racial profiling,” Espinoza said.[/pullquote]
IDEPSCA has identified an overly aggressive sheriff or deputy that is targeting the specific area along the Mtero Blue Line on Long Beach Boulevard and is working on a campaign to shame him.
Last year, California passed legislation that allowed county boards of supervisors to determine protocols for vehicle checkpoints. In Los Angeles, this has led to a policy where if a person is stopped and their only offense is lack of ID, the arresting officer is required to allow the release of the car to an alternate driver.
More recently, the city of Los Angeles has made it a little easier for those who do get their cars impounded, with total payment costing an average of $268, instead of the prior cost of about $1,400 for having the car impounded for 30 days. The high cost of getting a car from the yard could have potentially cost more than the car was even worth at times.
A licensed driver with insurance can pick up a car immediately after it was impounded if it was not for DUI. Some other rules of retrieval make it nearly impossible for someone undocumented or financially unstable to recover their car:
- Vehicle must have registration paid in full
- Registered vehicle owner must present proper identification
- If you’re having a friend retrieve the car, they must have proper ID as well.
- All fees associated with the impound must be paid in full, and all departmental holds must be cleared.
“People in Long Beach are already in a tough financial situation, and they don’t really give you any options,” said Samira Mingos, a downtown Long Beach resident who had trouble taking her kids to school after her car was impounded.
Mingos paid $546, not including what it will still cost to have her original car problem fixed. Her vehicle was towed less than 24 hours after breaking down near her home in downtown Long Beach, and it was also only partially registered. This was far less time than what the city usually waits. Long Beach Parking Enforcement usually allows a full 72 hours before they tow vehicles for being immobile.
Mingos’ youngest son attends school near home at Chavez elementary, but her eldest son goes to Marshall Middle School in Lakewood.
“It became really hard to take them to school, and I had to take a day off of work to come and take care of this,” Mingos said. She and her husband waited outside the tow-yard gate for more than 30 minutes for tow-yard employees to return her vehicle to her.
“It’s Christmas time, and they don’t even give people a break, you have to pay all of it at once, and they add more every day,” Mingos said.
The tow-yard charges an additional $50 per day that the car takes up space at the impound lot, in addition to an average towing fee of $150.
Another Long Beach resident Eric Dash drove proudly out of the impound yard and into the parking lot after spending nearly a thousand dollars to have it released to him.
By early estimates, Long Beach Parking Enforcement will process over 345,000 citations this year alone– collecting more than $13 million in fines.
The purchasing office of the city of Long Beach did not return phone calls to comment on how many vehicle impounds have resulted from those citations or how many cars there are total at the city’s towing and lien facility on Willow. At that tow-yard every day it ‘s easy to meet disgruntled people trying to save their precious transportation from the bi-weekly vehicle auctions.
“It’s racial profiling,” Espinoza said. “It creates fear in these working class families, and can prevent them from taking their family out to socialize normally.” Espinoza said that as a person of color, he has personally felt fearful of police in confrontations.
IDEPSCA have created a tool for mobile phones to report and map impounds on a real-time map to demonstrate the close grouping of these impounds. It uses technology similar to that utilized on Vozmob.net, an online platform for immigrant and low-wage workers to tell stories about thier lives and communities directly from their cell phones. The organization also offers popular education classes.
The technology for reporting imounds will be made more readily available to the public as IDEPSCA and other members of a freshly formed Long Beach committee progresses further into their campaign to stop racial profiling in car impounding.