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Car thefts have exploded, and victims are paying a steep price.

More than 7,000 Car thefts were reported in Milwaukee in 2015, but it’s not just a missing vehicle that can make a victim feel robbed. See the case of Anthony Leto, owner of Razor Barbershop in Bay View, whose 1997 Honda Accord was stolen off Kinnickinnic Avenue in March. When St. Francis police recovered it two days later, Milwaukee cops called to ask Leto if he could pick it up. He was working and it would take him a few hours, he told them, after arranging a ride. But officers gave him just 15 minutes, he says, at which point he agreed to have the Honda towed.

“Who the heck can be there in 15 minutes?” he says. Leto picked up his car the next day at a lot used by MT Towing, a private contractor. He paid $195, which included a two-day storage fee in addition to the towing charge.

Asked about the Leto case, MPD spokesman Tim Gauerke said the department’s practice is that “if someone can get there in a reasonable amount of time, we’re more than willing to wait.” Either way, if Milwaukee police had initially recovered the car, Leto wouldn’t have paid a dime. Unlike most area municipalities, Milwaukee pays to tow stolen cars instead of letting the cost fall to their rightful owners, saving crime victims more than $100. St. Francis, however, has no such policy, and neither do most municipalities in Milwaukee County: Out of the 12 additional cities or villages we contacted, only Wauwatosa pays for towing fees when someone is a victim of a crime. Bayside Police Chief Scott McConnell says he hopes the owner’s insurance company will cover the fees.

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And St. Francis Police Chief Tom Dietrich says towing is sometimes needed but has unfortunate consequences: “They’re already a victim of a theft, and you don’t want to pile on and add a tow value.”

See below for the results of our survey of 14 area municipalities.

Tow Fees for Stolen Cars

CITYWHO PAYS?COST
BaysideOwner$115 - $130
Brown DeerOwner$105 - $150
Fox PointOwner$130 minimum, usually between $130 and $150
FranklinOwner$75 or $100 for a flatbed tow
GlendaleOwner$130 minimum, usually between $130 and $150
MilwaukeeCity pays
full cost
$48.34 or $56.19, depending on location
Oak CreekOwner if not towed to
police station
NA
River HillsOwner$130 minimum, usually between $130 and $150
ShorewoodOwner$130 minimum, usually between $130 and $150
South
Milwaukee
Owner$85
St. FrancisOwner$125
WauwatosaUsually the city$120
West AllisOwner$75 or $100 for
a flatbed tow
Whitefish
Bay
Owner$130 minimum, usually between $130 and $150

 

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