Woman's car is stolen, she has to pay hundreds of dollars to get it back

Car owner wants change in the system

SAN DIEGO - A National City woman gets her car stolen, it's recovered and she has to pay hundreds of dollars to get it back. She called Team 10 troubleshooter Cristin Severance, who discovered this is happening all over California.

Reports show every 35 minutes a car is stolen in San Diego County, and some victims believe the system to get their car back, if it's found, isn't fair.

Evangelina Gardiner's Jeep Cherokee is a little old, but she said it has never let her down.

"I'm so attached to it. It's a 1995 -- they don't make them anymore," said Gardiner.

She said she was devastated when the SUV was stolen from the front of her National City home. 

"I thought it was going to go straight to Mexico for parts," Gardiner said.

It should have been good news when she got a call that the car was found, but then she learned she had to pay $300 to get it out of impound.

The car had been located in front of an apartment building two blocks away, and towed by the people who found it.

"Now, I've been victimized twice. Once when the car was stolen and now that I have to pay all this money to get it out," said Gardiner.

A quick search online shows this happens all over the state.

National City police said if they have the victim's phone number they will call them. But if an officer doesn't have a phone number on the report, they'll send the owner a letter.

"They just wiped their hands clean. They sent me a letter saying your car is at the towing company, go get it," said Gardiner.

The tow company said this happens a lot but there is no way to know which cars are stolen.

Gardiner said she believes there needs to be a change in this system.

"There's no database or anyway connecting the police to the tow company," said Gardiner.

Gordon Terry, a senior probation officer at the District Attorney's Restitution Enforcement Division, said there is a way for people such as Gardiner to get their money back.

"If the person who stole the car is caught the restitution can be ordered when he is sentenced," said Terry.

Terry said victims of property crimes can be paid back by criminals -- they just have to be caught so they can pay the restitution.

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