San Jose may halt impounds for unlicensed drivers

December 9, 2010 8:43:28 AM PST
Starting next week, the city of San Jose will change its controversial policy of impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers for 30 days. For years, Latino groups have claimed the policy unfairly targeted undocumented residents.

Latino advocacy groups say the problem is it's often harder for undocumented immigrants to get licenses. They've long protested that the vehicle seizures unfairly target them, causing this working class community much more economic hardship. But now San Jose is joining a host of other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley in changing its impound policy.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, police statistics show about 80 cars a week are towed from unlicensed drivers and held for a mandated month long period. Many owners abandon these cars because they're worth less than the nearly $3,000 it costs to get the car out after 30 days of storage, tickets and city fees.

As early as next week, San Jose police say the department will end its 30 day impound policy, when unlicensed drivers get caught for minor traffic violations. Instead, officers will offer alternatives, like letting a licensed driver pick up the car, or if it's towed, a licensed driver can pay any fees and pick it up without having to wait 30 days.

Some don't agree with the change, saying that unlicensed drivers are a threat to public safety. But immigrant community groups in San Jose are calling this policy reversal a path toward rebuilding trust between their community and law enforcement. Some faith and activist groups have even called for a celebration gathering next week in east San Jose.


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