- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2000

District of Columbia resident Sheila Davis had her car stolen this summer but was fortunate enough to have police recover it just three days after she filed a report.

The problem, Mrs. Davis says, is the Metropolitan Police Department never notified her that an officer recovered the car, which was then towed to a private lot.

And now she has to pay the towing company more than $3,000 in fees to get her car back.

On July 8, Mrs. Davis' 1989 Toyota Camry was taken from in front of her parents' home in the 2100 block of 12th Street NW.

Mrs. Davis, 36, said she filed a police report that night but never heard back, even after repeated requests for an update on the investigation.

More than two months later, an investigator for her insurance company called her to say he found her car at a towing storage lot on Kenilworth Avenue NE.

Mrs. Davis' car had been there since July 11, when police recovered it, insurance documents show.

Mrs. Davis called the lot, operated by Abe's Towing, and was told then it would cost $2,500 to get her car back.

"That was like a slap in the face," said her husband, Rick Davis, 36.

The fee is now more than $3,000, and climbing at a rate of $25 a day, Mrs. Davis was told two weeks ago by an employee at the lot.

A police official said yesterday the officer who found the car made a mistake but insists the Davises were called about the fee.

"I'm not sure where the ball was dropped," said Capt. Willie Smith of the police department's 3rd District. "Apparently, [the Davises] weren't told about it."

The officer who recovered the car no longer works at the police department and apparently he did not tell anyone to contact the owner, Capt. Smith said.

He also said the police have persuaded Abe's Towing to lower the fee the Davises must pay to get their car back.

The company told police it would lower the price from $2,500 to $300 or $400, which is "the basic fee for towing a car," Capt. Smith said.

Capt. Smith said he called the Davises in July to tell them about the lower fee.

"I thought it was taken care of," he said.

But Mrs. Davis said no one ever contacted her about the car until the insurance investigator called in September. She then gave the police a call.

"I didn't talk to anybody until Sept. 25, and not at any time did anyone ever tell me $300 or $400," Mrs. Davis said.

The Davises say they endured months of unreturned phone calls to the D.C. police department and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

The few times the Davises got someone on the phone, they said all they got were excuses and delays.

One suggestion from a police official in the chief's office was to pay the storage fine and sue the city for reimbursement, they said.

"If we had the money to hire lawyers, we would already have our car back," said Mrs. Davis, a secretary with Montgomery County schools. Mr. Davis is an addiction counselor in the District.

The Davises e-mailed the office of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and the response said their request was forwarded to the Department of Public Works.

The Davises have yet to hear from DPW, they said.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Davis' car still sits in a fenced-in lot.

On Sept. 27, a police official told her the towing company cut the price in half, which was $1,200 at the time.

"I paid $1,200 for the car, so I'm not going to pay $1,200 to get it back," she said.

She is willing to pay $150, the initial towing fee she was told by Abe's Towing she would have to pay to get the car back.

Mrs. Davis said that, despite the bureaucratic runaround, she and her husband are not giving up.

"They think if I'll go away, it will be fine, and they'll sweep it under the rug," she said. "My husband is not the type who just walks away from things."

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