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Dallas County Getting Cars Back To Owners

By Marianne Martinez & Sharrie Williams, CBS 11 News
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A tow truck operator secures a car for towing. (credit: AP Photo)

A tow truck operator secures a car for towing. (credit: AP Photo)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County is looking for hundreds of people whose cars have been sitting at an impound lot for months, even years.

It all stems from a towing controversy involving a former constable.

About 1,400 cars have been sitting in the lot for months, some even for years.  Now, there is a renewed effort to find the owners.

One of the owners, Charles Fletcher, spends a lot of time walking and catching rides.

Three years ago, he was pulled over for speeding and his SUV was towed. He fought to get it back.  “The fees were so high I had to turn away. I thought I’d lost it.”

“When I was trying to get it out of the pound, they were trying to give me a runaround,” said Fletcher on Friday.

Charles said he lost his job because either he had no way to get to work or he ran late because he took the bus.  “I couldn’t work and I couldn’t support my family.”

During a 3-year period, more than 5,000 vehicles were towed by Dowdy Ferry Wrecker Service, under direction of Constable Jaime Cortez, who’s no longer in office. Investigators say Dowdy Ferry also towed some vehicles on the orders of former Constable Derrick Evans.

Community activists say racial profiling was a factor in the towing, and that some vehicles were auctioned and the owners weren’t notified.

“We can’t speculate on why we’re in this situation. That investigation is being done by other people,” says county commissioner Clay Jenkins.

Meanwhile, Bob McGrath, appointed by the county as a ‘car czar’ is trying to find the owners of the vehicles.  “It’s their car, we’re going to try like the dickens to get it back w/out any punishment.”

As for Charles, he was able to get his SUV back on Monday, and while he’s relieved, he also says it doesn’t take away all of the frustration of the last 3 years.  “I still took a bunch of losses.”

A press conference was held Monday at Dowdy Ferry Wrecker Service Fletcher, where Fletcher was one of the first in the county to get his vehicle back.

“Today we are giving Mr. Fletcher his car back at no charge,” said Dallas County Commissioner Judge Clay Jenkins.

Although the impound and storage fees have been waived for Fletcher,  he says what he’s been through has already cost him dearly.

“It’s rough, rough. But it’s a good feeling to come back to it,” said Fletcher, standing next to his Chevrolet Suburban.

The county concluded Fletcher was given the run around.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez was at Monday’s press conference, and has been working with McGrath to get the vehicles back to their owners.  “We do need to work together to make it what it needs to be to bring justice and the way things should be run,” said Valdez.

As for Fletcher, he’s just thankful he has his vehicle back.  “I’m just going to ride and let the air blow on me.”

The county has set up a hotline for people who believe their cars are at the impound lot – (214) 653-7572, or you can email the county at towedcars@dallascounty.org

The fees for towing and storage will be capped at $326, and in cases where a mistake was made, there will be no charge.

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