On December 1, Jesse Elliot walked out of his apartment and realized his tricked-out Honda Accord - the car he loved - had been stolen. Jesse missed his morning classes at Universal Technical Institute, where he took mechanic classes, to file a report with the Precinct 4 Constable's Office.
That was the last he heard about his car, until two months later when his mother, Marlene Elliot, mistakenly called the Houston Police Department thinking it had the report on the stolen car. It didn't, but an officer told her that the car had been sitting in an impound lot for about two months.
"The constable who took the report had forgotten about it and didn't enter it until December 4 and did not even go back to check with local law enforcement if the car had been found," says Marlene, who lives in Alabama. (Jesse took a break from school and moved back to Alabama shortly after the car was stolen).
The thief had taken the Accord, ripped out the stereo, speakers and alarm system, then dumped the car at another apartment complex down the road. Three days later, a tow truck showed up and the driver called the police department to check if the it was stolen
Since the report was filed late -- deputies are supposed to enter all reports when their shifts are over -- the Honda checked out clean with HPD and the tow driver took it to the impound lot.
"It's not a common situation that we run into this," Captain Steve Whiton with the Precinct 4 constable's office tells Hair Balls. "It was a policy violation that [the report] wasn't entered on time, and corrective action has been taken on that."
Whiton says that the impound lot shares some blame, too. Impounds are required to write a car's owner, telling them they have their vehicle, or post two written notices in the local newspaper. The impound, McCarco, went the newspaper route for Elliot's car and took out an ad in Houston.
The local newspaper for Marlene and Jesse, however, was the Clay Times-Journal in Clay County, Alabama, and by the time Marlene found the Honda at the beginning of February, she had a $1,761 impound bill and about two weeks to get the money before the car went to auction. When the impound lot wouldn't budge, Marlene pawned the title to her mother's truck for $2,000 to pay the fees and gas money for Jesse and a friend to drive to Houston to pick up the car.
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"I basically had to go to a loan shark," Marlene says.
She's filed a claim with the county to recover the money she's spent, but it could take months for risk management to investigate and rule. Whiton says that he spoke with McCarco, and the owner was willing to give Marlene a $400 refund. The owner was not immediately available to comment.
"The engine is in good shape, but we have to replace the trim," Marlene says. "But he's just going to keep it here where it's safe."
-- Paul Knight