O'FALLON -- More than one in 10 people who are assessed an administrative tow fee under a program the city started a year ago lose their cars because they can't afford to pay to get them back.
Proponents say the program is a good way to keep the cost of running the police department as low as possible for law-abiding taxpayers. But others say the number of cars taken away from their owners is proof that it unfairly punishes poor people who don't have the resources to pay such a large bill.
According to police records, 48 of 464 people who had cars impounded couldn't afford to pay the fees required to get them back. And Police Chief John Betten said it's possible even more people lost their cars. Some car sales companies that specialize in selling vehicles to people with bad credit have clauses in their sales contracts that allow the cars to be repossessed not only if people fall behind on their payments, but also if the car is impounded, according to Betten.
The O'Fallon Police Department doesn't keep records of who comes to recover impounded cars; it only records whether the vehicles are released. Police said they could not determine how many people lost their cars to car companies that repossessed them.
Fairview Heights resident Lyndsay LeChien, who lost her license because of too many speeding tickets, said she continued driving illegally because she needed to get to her job as a waitress and do things for her two young children.
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