Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Philadelphia's Live Stop Program - Violation of the Citizenry's Constitutional Righs?

Have you been a victim of Philadelphia's so called "Live Stop" program where the police in the City of Philadelphia have you thrown out of your car on the spot "live" and they proceed to have your car immediately seized and impounded by the Philadelphia Parking Authority?

Were you left, like so many of your fellow citizens, stranded in the middle of nowhere? Were you coming home from food shopping with your groceries in your car and left not knowing what to do next while you watched your car be towed away? Were you struck in awe at how the government could seize your personal property without a proper court hearing and due legal process as the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees you as a citizen of the land?

Was your family left without a car until you could scrap up the money to go down to the Philadelphia Parking Authority's lot and get your car back?

Were you one of the many people who had their car's headlights left on "mistakingly" by the Philadelphia Parking Authority so that when you finally got to your car you found that your car battery was dead and then you watched the Philadelphia Parking Authority proceed to tow your car out into the street and plop your car next to the side walk while you had to wait for someone to come and give you a jump or tow your car to the mechanic's?

You are not alone. Every day, the City of Philadelphia's "Live Stop" program is having approximately one hundred of its citizens' cars seized and impounded "live" without a court hearing or any due legal process as promised by the Constitution.

What is going on? Is this the Wild West or is this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first capital of the United States of America and the home of the Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution!?

This blog is being set up by a group of citizens of the United States of America and residents of the city of Philadelphia in order to raise awareness among the citizens of Philadelphia about the city's "Live Stop Program" and all the harm and hurt it is causing every day non-criminal people.

This is a place to post stories, gather and unite, to petition the city and demand change so that the horrors of the Live Stop program can be stopped. Every day non-criminal citizens should not be thrown out of their cars and have their property seized on the spot. The constitution apparently even guarantees criminals their rights and procedures when it comes to their property.

Help us make a change ! At least get informed on what Live Stop is. Help inform others, your friends, loved ones so that they don't fall victim to this "program" which should be retitled a "pogrom". Forward this Blog's Link to as many people as you can.

Links To Help

The Police Advisory Commission

Also known as PAC. PAC is a non-vested non-governemental group of very dedicated and informed citizens that oversee the behavior of Philadelphia Police and help you with complaints against police officers that step over the line of their professional duties.

When I was pulled over by Live Stop, not only do I believe my Constitutional Rights were violated by the police officer involved with improper seizure of property without due legal process, but I also got a lot of snide, cutting and biting personal remarks from a quite ignorant and clearly psychologically disturbed police officer. PAC was great with guiding and handling this situation. Being a cop in any major urban area surely isn't an easy job, but sadistic personalities shouldn't be allowed to continue operating in the police force. Apparently, the city of Philadelphia has potential cops psychologically screened before they become cops but once they hit the streets they are not psychologically reviewed periodically. Surely, being a cop is a very hard thing in any major urban area. And hats off to all the good cops out there of which there are many we all commend and thank you. For your mentally ill cops that suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sadistic personalities etc., you need to get help. Filing complaints against you is actually a good thing for you. It might get you some need help before you get any worse. We can go police Iraq and goodness knows how many corners around the globe but we can't get decent pay and benefits to attract good, sane, just cops on the streets of our cities in the U.S.A.

Hall Watch

This is a great watch dog group that stays on top of all the financial and political corruption, abuse and mismanangement that elected city officials are constantly bringing about in this city.

Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

Live Stop Causing More Problems Asks Poster At

Live Stop Program causing more problems?

I am currently a manager at one of the businesses on Cottman avenue near Roosevelt Mall, and have had three very bad experiences within the last month or so, due directly to the live stop program.

Last night was the worst of the three, and it seems like things are only going to get worse unless someone changes the policies involved in leaving very angry criminals in a neighbohood other than thier own.

Here's what happened last night. A car was LiveStopped on Cottman outside of where I work. The three occupants of the vehicle were two large black men, and a black woman, all of whom were very clearly altered.

As has happened twice before in the past month or so, yet again they come into my place of work, and start asking to use the phone, scaring my employees and customers, and generally causing a serious disruption to business, as well as a rather dangerous situation for myself and my employees.

The three immediately set upon a young black man in my lobby, who happened to be waiting for his girlfriend to finish her shift. Because both she and he are black, the three started attempting the "help your people out" approach, then turned VERY aggressive when it didn't work. They were asking for money, and actually intimidated the young man into letting them use his phone!

I had multiple customers attempt to come into the business who were set upon by these three, aggressively asking for money, posturing in an intimidating way, and scared all of my patrons off. One had already paid for her purchase and was awaiting it's completion and was so afraid that she just left. I had to refund her money an hour later, after she called and sent her husband back, because she didn't even feel safe enough to return after I assured her everything was taken care of.

My employee, who lives in a pretty bad area of West Philly, and is no stranger to bad situation, was so unsettled that she had to sit in the office, taking a good ten or so minutes before she was able to stop crying and pull herself together.

I asked these junkies to leave repeatedly, and was actually ready to defend myself, so aggressive was the response I recieved. It took me having to get VERY aggressive, and have my employee dial 911 before they actually left, throwing things at the windows on thier way, and kicking over a trash can to boot.

This is a bad situaiton, that could have gotten MUCH worse, and it was caused 100% by the live stop policies. Has anyone else had problems in NE Philly with this program? If not, watch out, because it's getting worse, three in a month for my place of work. If so, how do you deal with this?

I think the LiveStop program needs to include those IN the vehicle. If the car is being taken, the driver is CLEARLY breaking the law, LOCK THEM UP TOO! If the passengers are clearly high, take them as well! These three were screaming at the police the whole time, so it's not like it wasn't clear what mindset they were in.

Any suggestions on trying to nip this problem in the bud before it gets out of hand?
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Stop Live Stop ! Online Petition by Foundation For A Better Society

Help us Stop the unfair practices of “Live Stop”.

Law makers got together and figured 21 days was enough time for you to get your MONEY and “AFFAIRS” in order to get your car out of the impound. They must know how much money you have at home under the mattress(or they just don't care, they just want you to shut up and pay).

Live Stop , Dead Cars - - Almost 31,000 Cars Seized By July 2003 !

Live Stop, Dead Cars

Lock and Key: scrappers are snatching up seized   live-stop cars in batches of 25.
Lock and Key: scrappers are snatching up seized live-stop cars in batches of 25. Photo By: Michael T. Regan

City lots are filling up with seized vehicles.

If you’re one of the nearly 31,000 Philadelphians whose car was confiscated under the city’s Live Stop program, you’re probably already familiar with the contents of this story and have started cursing under your breath while reading it on public transportation. For many others, some questions remain: Whose car gets taken? How do you get it back? And what ever happened to the promise that auto-insurance premiums would drop, since not even a penny has been deducted so far?

Here are the hard numbers. Between last July, when the administration started enforcing Live Stop, and the end of May, 30, 909 cars had been confiscated from drivers without a valid license and/or an up-to-date registration. The program is administered by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which hauls away the cars and stores them in five lots across the city.

There they wait for owners to reclaim them after paying the necessary fees and acquiring the proper paperwork. That means you have to pay up any tickets and fines, the state's $36 vehicle registration fee, and of course, get some insurance. If no one stakes their claim, the car is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Parking Authority spokesperson Richard Dickson says confiscated cars go to the highest bidder in about a month, which officials consider enough time for owners to get their paperwork in order.

Allaying concerns that the PPA may run out of room to store the growing number of confiscated autos, Dickson says it has already bought five extra lots to meet the demand.

"We can handle the job," Dickson says. "We have the space and the good cars are being sold at a decent clip." But what about the not-so-good cars? It's no secret that a fair number of seizures aren't worth the gas left in their tanks.

"The ones we can't sell at auction to individual owners or dealers we sell for salvage. Scrap metal and salvage guys buy them in lots of 25 for as little as $25 apiece," he says. Seized cars sold at auction have a minimum $300 bid and are sold as is. There are rarely keys, so winning bidders need to tow the cars home, get a locksmith to open the door and have new keys made. Then, they have to get the car registered, inspected and insured. All that, and there's little information about the car's condition. Since there are few guarantees, if the car has serious problems, the winning bidder purchased a large lawn ornament.

Dickson says 14,925 cars seized since Live Stop started have been reclaimed while 21,475 were auctioned. ("I know that comes to more than the 30,909," Dickson explains, "but the vehicles we already had in our lots when Live Stop started were counted in those numbers.")

The goal, says Dickson, is getting unsafe drivers and cars off the road, thereby lowering everybody else's insurance rates.

"When the city asked the insurance companies for relief, this is what they said they wanted so we're doing that, and so far, the program has been a success," he says. "Now it's time to hold their feet to the fire and make sure that we get the relief they promised. We're doing our part. It's up to our elected officials to make the insurance companies do theirs."

Several officials are doing just that. Two months ago, Mayor Street formed an auto insurance rate reduction task force, and has gone on record saying that he thinks Philadelphians are getting shafted.

"It's the mayor's contention that the auto insurance rates are unjustifiably high, given the insurance companies' own loss ratios and risk factors," says Street spokesperson Barbara Grant. "We've created the new consumer advocate position and even taken the insurance companies to court. We're also working with the state's insurance commissioner to lay out our case. We're going to press in every court we can and every way we can to get relief for Philadelphia drivers."

The State Insurance Department agrees that Live Stop is a clear signal to insurance companies that the city is serious about getting something done but says the unusually high percentage of medical claims resulting from Philly auto accidents inflates insurance premiums.

"People are at a greater risk of being involved in an accident in Philadelphia, and it's more costly to make human and vehicle repairs," says State Insurance Department spokesperson Rosanne Placey. "But having fewer uninsured drivers means that consumers may feel more comfortable omitting the uninsured motorist component of the coverage, creating a savings."

West Philly Stops Live Stop Lot -

West Philly Stops Live-Stop Lot

lots of opposition: A community garden in West Philadelphia  recently had a confiscated-auto lot as its neighbor.

lots of opposition: A community garden in West Philadelphia recently had a confiscated-auto lot as its neighbor.

: Michael T. Regan

Incensed gardeners Weedwack city plans to park confiscated autos in Cedar Hill.

Every garden, no matter how lush and bountiful, can be the victim of annoying pests. At the Warrington Community Garden in Cedar Hill, the most egregious garden pest this summer turned out to be the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

When Operation Live Stop, a program implemented citywide to crack down on unlicensed and unregistered drivers, was launched on July 1, PPA earmarked a few of its lots in residential neighborhoods as temporary drop-off sites for the confiscated vehicles.

The lot it chose in West Philly, nestled between Baltimore and Warrington avenues and 47th and 48th streets and situated alongside a flourishing community garden, quickly became the focus of community opposition.

Sometime around July 1, residents, members of the Cedar Park Neighbors association and the 70 gardeners who have been working this land for nearly 10 years were given assurances by PPA representatives that the use of the lot as a drop-off site would be temporary.

But about a week after the first cars arrived, the city sent in a team of construction workers, and after a few hours of jackhammering, a Cyclone fence in cement was erected smack dab in the middle of the lot.

"All the neighbors were concerned when [PPA] starting towing the cars in, but they told us it would go away," says Steve Pyne, of the 4700 block of Windsor Avenue. "Then they came back and fenced it, and it became more of an impoundment lot than a drop-off site. To us, it didn't seem temporary at all."

Pyne says that when the PPA came to prep the lot for the freshly towed cars, authority workers threatened to cut down the 20-foot grapevine that was growing along a fence on the north side.

"They actually became hostile toward the gardeners," Pyne says. "We weren't happy about them using the lot in the first place, so it was like putting gasoline on an already fuming neighborhood."

With the neighborhood now being subjected to 'round-the-clock tow trucks, flatbeds and noise, Maureen Tate, president of Cedar Park Neighbors, decided to take action.

"There were just so many implications to the city using this as an impoundment lot," Tate explains. "First of all, we have the community garden and the Baltimore Avenue businesses. The community has also been supporting a restaurant project on the grounds next to the parking lot. Anything that would change the use of a previously public facility has to be communicated. But the Parking Authority didn't know all these elements existed. They didn't know because there was no communication with us -- at all."

Tate, who lives on the 4800 block of Florence Avenue, says she received dozens of complaints from the gardeners, her neighbors and some merchants.

"They were installing fences, spraying defoliants along the garden, making noises all through the night because they were dropping off cars 24 hours a day -- and there was so much pollution," she says. "But it was hard to pin down who was responsible for what was happening. I kept having to jump from agency to agency."

Operation Live Stop is onionlike in its bureaucracy. Based on a state law that's been on the books for years, the initial vehicle stop is made by a police officer, who gives the driver a violation. Then the PPA tows the car to a city impoundment lot -- or, sometimes, to a temporary drop-off site. The driver then has to go to traffic court and satisfy the summons to retrieve his or her vehicle. The entire operation is overseen by the Managing Director's Office, which supervises city agencies.

Officials at the PPA say that more than 3,000 cars have been confiscated since last month.

Tate says the residents of Cedar Hill are fully supportive of Operation Live Stop, but the lot had to go.

Barbara Herskowitz, also of the 4700 block of Windsor Avenue, was one of the residents who helped Tate organize the offensive against the PPA.

"The fence went up in the late afternoon on a Monday, but it came down on Wednesday," she says.

Fran Burns, an assistant managing director for the city, says that the lot was never intended to be permanent and that the city was sensitive to the neighborhood's concerns. Burns also said that, according to her records, Cedar Hill was the only neighborhood to grumble about Operation Live Stop.

"When we received complaints from the community, the PPA stopped dropping cars off there immediately," Burns says. "We worked together with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's office, and from the point I was brought in, I don't think it was even two days before the fence came down."

Burns says there were never more than 20 cars held in the lot, and those that remained were taken to another lot across town. But Burns attributes the diligence of Tate and her community, the intervention of Blackwell and the cooperation of the PPA with resolving the crisis quickly.

PPA, however, has a different take.

The decision to remove the cars and take down the fence had nothing at all to do with the efforts made by the Cedar Hill community, says Howard Cain, a spokesperson for the PPA.

"That lot was purely temporary," Cain explains. "We always planned to use it no more than two or two-and-a-half weeks. The idea was that we wanted to have spots around the city when we started up [Operation Live Stop] because we had a guaranteed response time of 20 minutes or less. We had it just in case ... but it became apparent after the second week that we didn't need it, so we're not using it anymore. It's as simple as that. If Jannie Blackwell spoke to someone in the PPA, I have no knowledge of it."

Cain says that the city has six permanent impoundment lots that can hold more than 6,000 cars -- two in South Philly; two in Tioga; one in Bridesburg and one in Germantown. The fence, he says, was merely a safety issue.

"Wherever we were, we'd have to secure the vehicles," Cain says. "Even if it was only for four days, we would have put up a fence. We can't tow somebody's car and then put it in a position to be vandalized or tampered with."

Live Stop Seizes About 100 Vehicles A Day - Towing Rates Raised -

''Live Stop'' Vehicle Towing Fee Increased in Philadelphia

by KYW's Steve Tawa

The Philadelphia Parking Authority says that because of rising costs, it is hiking the fee for towing away your car if it gets confiscated by police during a "live stop."

Each day, about 100 vehicles are towed in Philadelphia. The "Live Stop" program targets drivers who don’t have proper registration or invalid, suspended, or revoked driver’s licenses.

And a live-stop job can last hours, according to Parking Authority director of on-street operations Corinne O'Connor:

"Just like you, tow trucks get stuck in traffic. We have to cover our costs on getting there."

The same vehicle seizure law also takes in trucks under similar circumstances. The Live Stop tow fee is now increasing $15 to $150 for most vehicles. The fee for trucks over 17,000 pounds is going up to $335.

The last increase for Live Stop was a $10 fuel charge in April, 2006.