Car theft and accident victims had to pay Merseyside Police a total of £ 175,000 in “administration fees” to get their vehicles back last year.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the force recovered 11,582 vehicles in the past year, including cars that were stolen, parked illegally or were involved in an accident.
However, the government allows police forces to charge car owners a fee to recover their vehicles, which can range from £ 150 to £ 300 depending on where the car is and how badly it is damaged.
The police can also charge £ 20 a day to store the car, even if it needs forensic investigation.
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These charges apply even if the car is stolen. Crime victims only have 30 minutes to collect their vehicle before the police remove it themselves and collect the fee.
The fees are intended to help the police cover the cost of hiring a recovery company to take the vehicle to a garage, and the police do not benefit from the fees.
A Merseyside Police spokesman said: “Police forces across the country are required to remove vehicles that are dangerous, obstructive, illegally parked, involved in a road traffic accident, or broken down or abandoned, including vehicles parked after a theft. Such removals incur fees that are set by the government at the national level.
“The vehicle restoration fees cover the costs of the recovery company, the garage for the safe storage of vehicles and the personnel costs for the police.
“The Merseyside Police are not making any profit on these allegations.”
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Some insurance policies cover these administration fees, but many drivers may choose not to make a claim as they may not get a large payout considering their deductible.
The car thieves are also unlikely to ever be caught. Only 5% of Merseyside car thefts result in law enforcement.
The latest Home Office figures relating to 2019/20 show that while there were 2,878 reports of car thefts in Merseyside that year, only 134 resulted in anyone appearing in court.
In the vast majority of cases, approximately 2,202 incidents, the investigation was closed without a suspect identified, while another 416 were closed due to difficulty with evidence.
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A police spokesman said: “We have seen a significant year-over-year decrease in vehicle crime and break-ins in Merseyside and we continue to work to combat this type of crime in our communities.
“In addition to working with partner agencies to fight vehicle crime – for example to improve street lighting – we regularly carry out street police operations where we stop cars and check ownership data. Automatic License Plate Recognition (ANPR) is also used to help officers detect, deter, and disrupt this type of crime.
“Our neighborhood teams are also continuously working to ensure that the safety messages are strengthened among the residents. This type of crime is commonly committed by opportunistic thieves, and simple steps like locking your car, parking it in a well-lit area, and making sure keys are secure and kept away from mailboxes can help reduce the risk of targeted control to reduce.
“We urge people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity near you to the police as we have information. Rest assured, we will take action.”