The Sunday Telegraph runs a story today on the police garage recovery scheme, which is drawing in millions of pounds a year from victims of car crime.
Basically, the scheme is as follows, when a stolen car gets found the police arrange for it to be recovered by an officially approved local garage. The garage then take the car back to a secure pound while the hapless loser is informed that their car has been recovered. They then turn up at the garage to be met with a bill for Ã‚Â£150 plus Ã‚Â£20 per day storage. In many cases the fee is recoverable from the insurance claim, however, often the fee has to come out of the pocket of the victim, particularly if the value of the car is low or they don’t wish to lose any no claims bonus.
Car crime victims often say it feels like they are being mugged twice, once when their car is stolen & once by the police when they are forced to pay to get their vehicle back. Not all forces operate the scheme the same way. Some forces have an ‘opt out’ policy; they ask the loser when they are reporting their car stolen, whether they want the police to recover it or leave it in situ. This saves them from having to fork out garage recover fees. Other forces will give the owner of the car half an hour to get to it before they recover it. This is fine when the loser is in a position to drop everything, always assuming they are physically within 30 minutes travelling distance of their car.
The scheme has come about because historically, when the police found a car, we would turn up, see it was there & then leave it for the owner to collect, the problem with this is that it leaves the car open to being stolen again, after all, who is to say that the car thief hasn’t just parked it up for a while fully intending to come back to it? Why not just sit up on the car & arrest the theif when they come back? Fine in theory, how long do you wait? Thirty minutes, an hour or two, all afternoon? And what if they do come back, get in the car & then fail to stop & end up killing someone or writing the car off? it’s not gonna look good in Coroner’s Court explaining why you let someone get behind the wheel of a stolen car when you could have just taken it away & prevented any further crime & danger.
So we came up with the garage recovery scheme. And whilst I can see the need for a garage to become involved & be paid for its services, I also have a great deal of sympathy with the victim who gets their car nicked, and then gets stuffed with a bill for getting it back. That’s what insurance is for? Except if your car gets recovered without any further damage & your excess is Ã‚Â£200, it’s coming out of your pocket matey.
So who should pay?