St. Louis County church has to pay nearly $500 to get stolen van back

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:45 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A St. Louis County church had its van recovered by St. Louis police after it was stolen more than three weeks ago.

Bishop Shadrach Martin went to the city towing facility on Wednesday to pick up the van, leaving frustrated at the $475 bill he had to pay.

“A crime that they came to my property, took property and then I have to pay to get the property back,” Bishop Martin says. “It’s almost like the thief came and stole and then it’s like the city is stealing money because we have to pay to get it out of impound.”

Bishop Martin says after News 4′s original story aired about the van being stolen, detectives called him to let him know it was being investigated.

After that phone call, Bishop Martin expected he would receive a call if the van was recovered. Instead, he got a certified letter from the city that the van was at the tow yard.

“In the letter, it stated that if you didn’t recover it within 72 hours, there will be a $25 storage fee per day,” Bishop Martin says.

By the time he saw the letter at the church office, the 72-hour window for the free pick-up had passed.

The church paid the $475 in towing and storage fees. On top of that, Bishop Martin paid $125 to have the van towed off the lot because of damage to the ignition.

He says the church has already spent $600 before any of the repair costs and that’s money the church didn’t plan on spending.

“It’s an injustice to the community and the people to have to pay to get property that was stolen from them,” he says.

News 4 asked the St. Louis City Street Department what the protocol is for getting back your stolen vehicle that has been recovered.

Director Betherny Williams says the department follows an ordinance and after the 72-hour window, people have to pay.

“99.999% of the time we are following the ordinance because this is part of the city revenue of bringing these funds in as well,” Williams says.

Williams says the tow lot is at capacity, mostly due to the daily number of stolen Kias and Hyundais being towed in.

The takeaway for people who have had their vehicles stolen is to keep an eye out for that certified letter daily.

“Please start reaching out to the tow lot so that we can communicate to you and work with you that way you won’t have fines per day,” Williams says.

The certified letter from the city will go to the registered owner of the car. If the vehicle isn’t picked up within 30 days, it gets auctioned off.

News 4 asked if there is any leeway on avoiding charges. The Department of Streets says there are some circumstances that extend that free 72-hour period. However, most of that is related to any delays from police investigations or holds on the vehicle.