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King City proposes new towing policy

By Cassandra Arsenault, Reporter, CassandraArsenault@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Mar 11 2014 08:49:55 PM CDT
KING CITY, Calif. -

A news conference was held at City Hall in King City on Monday afternoon to address the controversy surrounding the six police officers charged with a range of crimes from embezzlement to illegal possession of firearms. Some of the officers have been accused of being part of an alleged scheme of impounding cars and having them towed. Due to the controversy of the alleged scheme that targets poor Hispanics, part of the City Council agenda is to change the city's towing policy.

The city leaders say the controversy over the King City Police case is what has caused the city to move towards a change in their towing policy. Their proposed policy would give police officers the discretion to let someone who is pulled over without a license, call another licensed driver to drive their car home, instead of having it towed. 

Connie Leyva and her husband opened Leyva's towing 11 years ago. The business is her family's livelihood, but it isn't easy.

"It's very hard and expensive to be honest with you, but we made it," said Leyva. 

Even though their competition, Miller's Towing, stands less than a mile away, that's not the main reason business hasn't been good in King City for the past three years.

"We are working for the Gonzalez PD, Greenfield PD, Soledad PD, King City PD, Sheriff's department, and CHP. Business was great except for King City," said Leyva.

Investigators say Miller's Towing was at the center of an alleged scheme in King City where illegal immigrants cars' were towed and impounded by police. Leyva says she noticed that Miller's would get more business than they would. She even went to the King City police department a few years ago to complain to former Chief Nick Baldiviez. According to Leyva, Baldiviez said he would take care of it, but she never saw business increase. She said they would receive about three cars a month from King City PD. 

Now since King City took Miller's Towing off the King City Police rotation list, Leyva says her business has tripled. They have already received about nine cars before the month has ended. However, the new towing policy could change that, but Mayor Robert Cullen believes it's the right thing to do.

"I would rather give our police department at their discretion to say, "park your car, have someone come that has a valid driver's license, to drive the car back home, instead of impounding the vehicle," said Cullen.

King City Council says its especially important to address this problem, because of the immigrant population they serve.

"We are stuck dealing with a lack of a decent immigration policy in this country in California. In the Central Valley you have to have a car to get to work," said city manager Michael Powers.

Councilwoman Karen Jernigan says her goal is to listen to both sides at the City Council meeting. She wants to hear what the community has to say, but, for her, the discussion ahead is about more than cars and towing, it's about the future for this community.

"I want to unite our community, and that's really important to me," said Jernigan.