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LAPD DROPS 30-DAY HOLD ON IMPOUNDS.

Byline: Patrick McGreevy Daily News Staff Writer

Citing cumbersome new procedures required by the state, the LAPD has suspended enforcement of a year-old law allowing officers to place 30-day holds on cars impounded from motorists driving without licenses.

The decision has triggered an angry response from Assemblyman Richard Katz, D-Panorama City, who said failure to enforce the 30-day hold jeopardizes public safety.

"The effect of not enforcing this law is that someone will die or be seriously injured," Katz said.

State statistics show that motorists with revoked or suspended licenses are four times as likely to be involved in fatal accidents as are licensed drivers.

Katz said 75 percent of people who have had their licenses suspended lost their driving privileges because of drunken driving convictions, while half of the hit-and-run accidents in California are caused by unlicensed drivers.

Los Angeles Police Department officials support the idea of holding cars for 30 days - and had done so at the rate of 3,100 a month during most of last year.

However, police officials say an amendment that took effect Jan. 1 requires them to notify the legal owner by certified mail within two working days of the impound.

The new rule has created a paperwork nightmare for a department with limited resources that is shifting officers from desk jobs to field patrols, said Lt. Charles Kunz, officer in charge of LAPD's Traffic Coordination Section.

Kunz said city procedures require all certified mail to be issued through City Hall, requiring officers from distant police stations to hand-carry the notices downtown before they can be sent out.

"Somebody has to sit down and make out these postal certificates," Kunz said. "The manpower involved in this is significant and we have limited resources."

Kunz said his office has drafted new orders to spell out procedures to put the 30-day holds back in force. He said the draft is being reviewed by department officials and that they hope to have the holds back in place by mid-April.

The LAPD continues to impound vehicles, but the vehicles are released as soon as someone shows up at the local police station with a valid driver's license, Kunz said.

During a sweep Feb. 17, the LAPD impounded 107 cars in the West San Fernando Valley. Kunz agreed with Katz that the impounds make a difference.

"Whenever we do these, the hit-and-run traffic collision rate drops for a substantial period of time," Kunz said.

The bill calling for a 30-day hold on cars was written by Sen. Quentin Kopp, I-San Francisco. It punishes motorists who drive without licenses by holding their vehicles in impound for 30 days.

A related bill by Katz allows forfeiture of vehicles if a driver is caught a second time driving without a license and is convicted of that offense.

The amendment took effect Jan. 1 and was intended to protect car dealers and financial institutions that make auto loans, said Steve Schnaidt, a consultant to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Dealers and lenders were concerned that they would be left holding the bag for costly impound bills if the driver decided to abandon a car they had financed.

Owners of impounded vehicles pay $14.50 a day for storage and parking taxes, plus a $71.25 fee for the towing and a $40 release fee, according to Detective Dan Carson, who oversees privately owned Official Police Garages for the Police Commission.

The police also are concerned that the Kopp amendment holds the city liable for impound fees after 15 days in cases where the city has failed to provide proper notice to the legal owner.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 2, 1996
Words:601
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