BRADENTON — A police official informed City Council at a workshop Wednesday of his department’s desire to enforce and change the vehicle impounding ordinance.
Deputy Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the department has not been impounding vehicles because of pending litigation in other cities, but courts have been ruling in favor of the practice.
The ordinance on the books, No. 2583, allows a vehicle to be impounded and a charge imposed to have it released if it was used in soliciting prostitution or violating drug laws.
Tokajer said some changes would have to be made, including expanding the violations to include driving while under the influence of alcohol, hit-and-run accidents and playing of loud music.
In an telephone interview after the meeting, Tokajer said he believes the entire community would support the use of such action to gain compliance.
“When people are given a DUI ticket, they bond out, pay the fine and are back on the road,” he said. “This would make someone think twice about driving under the influence.”
Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey said she would support enforcement of the ordinance because it was a quality of life issue.
“Over the past three to four years, every neighborhood association and community meeting that I’ve attended I’ve had citizens request more enforcement,” Barnebey said after the meeting, “and tough fines on action dealing with things like loud music and dealing drugs.
“This is another tool in the police officer’s toolbox for protecting life and property.”
Councilman Bemis Smith said he was worried people would perceive the action just as a way for the city to raise money.
“I want the police department to enforce the law,” Smith said, “but I question when we start using the department to be our tax collector.”
He asked what was the reason a police department needed to impound vehicles?
“It makes it harder, too, for the person to repeat the crime,” Tokajer said. “The state fine schedule was not enough of a deterrent.”
Smith said if that was the case, the police department should be lobbying the Legislature to increase fines.
He wondered how a car is any more part of the crime than the watch the arrested person was wearing.
After the meeting, Smith said he was not necessarily opposed to enforcement of the ordinance, but that the police force was there for public safety.
“What should trigger punishment is the violation someone commits,” he said. “If a person is caught speeding, they should pay a fine that covers the cost of enforcement.
“Do we not risk losing the people’s support if they think the police are enforcing only the laws that raise money?”