A brand new audit says the San Diego Police Division’s car towing program seems to be disproportionately hurting low-income individuals and different weak teams.
The 49-page audit recommends metropolis officers think about various approaches that would soften the impression, akin to a “textual content earlier than tow” program, parking “boots” or provides of neighborhood service as an alternative of fines.
“Given the Metropolis Council’s concern over the impacts of this system and the numerous monetary, fairness and quality-of-life implications we discovered exist, metropolis management ought to consider its choices and articulate a coverage route on enforcement and charges,” the audit says.
The audit discovered that the highest two causes a car will get towed — registrations expired longer than six months, and violations of the 72-hour parking rule on many metropolis streets — usually have an effect on low-income individuals greater than others.
It additionally discovered that the towing program is dropping roughly $2 million a yr, partly as a result of San Diego imposes decrease fines than different cities and partly as a result of low-income individuals usually quit their car relatively than pay the fines they owe.
Police officers agreed to make the program extra clear, together with by complying with the town auditor’s suggestion to finish a statistics-rich complete report — the primary since 2013.
However Police Chief David Nisleit disagreed with a suggestion that his division research various approaches and work with metropolis homelessness and fairness officers to discover learn how to scale back this system’s impression on the weak.
The rejected suggestion requested the Police Division to research the share of tows that occur for causes extra widespread amongst weak populations, and the way usually such tows end result within the proprietor giving the car up as an alternative of paying the fines.
It additionally requested for a breakdown of these percentages for every of the town’s 9 council districts to gauge the impression on low-income neighborhoods and residents.
Nisleit, in a written response, stated he deliberate to deal with issues otherwise.
“The Police Division acknowledges the town’s issues about balancing its pursuits of enforcement with mitigating disproportionate impacts of towing on low-income people, and can work with metropolis management in an effort to establish issues and help within the metropolis’s coverage selections for the tow administration program,” the chief wrote.
Nisleit added that he could be keen to discover any changes to this system beneath the steerage of the council.
Nisleit agreed to check and reveal statistics together with response occasions by towing contractor, variety of autos towed and impounded per yr and common time between impound and a car being reclaimed.
The audit, launched Monday afternoon, discovered that the variety of car tows had been dropping sharply and steadily earlier than a current plateau.
The variety of tows fell from 28,216 in fiscal yr 2017 to 23,367 in fiscal yr 2018, 20,147 in fiscal yr 2019, 16,897 in fiscal yr 2020 and 17,169 in fiscal yr 2021.
The audit attributes the drop partly to law enforcement officials having higher discretion in deciding which autos to tow. The pandemic additionally performed a task in fiscal 2020 and financial 2021, the audit says.
The proportion of tows that occur for causes extra widespread amongst weak populations — known as disproportionate impression tows within the audit — has remained principally regular since fiscal 2017.
It rose from 27 % of tows to 35 % of tows in fiscal 2018, 38 % in fiscal 2019 and 40 % in fiscal 2020, then fell to 37 % in fiscal 2021.
Throughout these 5 years, 27 % of all tows resulted within the proprietor giving the car up as an alternative of paying the fines owed. The audit says which will partly clarify why the town loses cash, explaining that the town not often recovers its prices in such instances.
One other consider this system‘s failure to recuperate its prices is that San Diego has decrease towing fines than 4 peer cities. San Diego’s towing cost is $178, whereas Chula Vista is at $235, Oceanside is at $245, San Jose is at $250 and San Francisco is at $268.
The audit additionally discovered that the Metropolis Council districts with essentially the most car tows throughout the five-year interval have been districts 3, 2 and eight.
District 3, which incorporates downtown and close by areas, had 28,770 tows; District 2, which incorporates seashore communities, had 19,788; and District 8, which incorporates Barrio Logan and San Ysidro, had 17,572.