Checkpoints Generate Millions For Escondido

Checkpoints designed to catch unlicensed drivers have generated millions for the city of Escondido and towing companies in the past three years, it was reported Monday.

The money comes from unlicensed drivers whose vehicles are seized, forcing them to pay a minimum 30-day storage fee that can cost $1,200 or more, The North County Times reported.

Civil rights attorneys are challenging the practice in federal court on the basis that the checkpoints are less about public safety and more about making money off illegal immigrants, the newspaper reported.

A hearing is set for Aug. 18 and the case may go to trial in October, according to the Times.

Escondido police, who usually conduct checkpoints twice a month, say the practice has helped reduce the number of hit-and-run accidents in the city, the Times reported.

Escondido City Councilman Sam Abed told the Times that vehicles are held for 30 days because that is what state law requires.

"My goal is not to make money," Abed told the newspaper. "It's to get these unlicensed drivers off the street."

The city contracts with four towing companies, each of which having paid the city $37,500 a year from 2004 to 2007 for the rights to haul away and store impounded vehicles.

Once they get the vehicles in their possession, the tow companies make their profits by charging owners a storage fee.

This year, the towing companies are set to pay the city $75,000 and next year, they'll pay $100,000, the Times reported.

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