Cash strapped communities are looking for more and more ways to
raise money. The latest: billing people for routine police
What this means is if an officer helps you or even just
files a report on a fender bender, you can face a bill of hundreds
Bad Day Gets Worse
Thelma Maser had a bad day, ending up in a fender bender with a
But the dent along the side of this grandmother's car was
nothing compared with the ding she got a few weeks later: a bill
some now call a "crash tax."
Thelma told me "I got a letter that asked for damages, for
Worse, the city charged Thelma not $100, not $200, but a
$776 for the police to respond to her fender
Thelma said "I was so shocked and surprised that they would
charge because it wasn't anything out of their line of duty. I
thought that was their duty!"
Charges on top of Charges
We looked at the bill, and found charge of:
$462 for 3 police cruisers to respond to her fender
$880 for 3 officers to direct traffic and file a report
$234 for an "administrative," or apparently paperwork
Thelma was stunned, saying no one was injured. She said "they
just wrote a report and directed traffic, as I would think they
would normally do."
More Communities Adding these Fees
But dozens of communities around the country are now charging
non-residents like Thelma for police response, and more are jumping
on this easy money bandwagon.
The councilman behind this new fee says the city can no
longer afford the hundreds of dollars every police run costs.
North College Hill Council member Tom Graves told me "In
these types of times, with serious economic issues that we are all
experiencing, there are certain basic hidden costs that no one
gives any consideration to."
However, he says:
Only out-of-town drivers considered at-fault have to
City residents are not charged.
People who are "victims" of an accident or crime, according
to the police report, are not charged.
However, In many cases, insurance wont pay.
So what if you can't afford it? Tom Graves says they may
forgive the bill in cases of hardship. Plus, he said, the law is
unclear as to how or whether the city can pursue the bills. He said
"in due time, if it's not paid, we'll have to do what everyone else
does, and look the other way, I guess."
Graves says the city may be willing to give this grandmother
So my advice: If you are hit with a big bill for police
services, call the police department and ask if you can negotiate
it down. No? Then escalate it to the town, village, or city.
Florida says "No"
Meantime, some cities and states are fighting back, after
hundreds of complaints about these fees. The
State of Florida took the biggest step last year,
banning these fees completely. Other states are considering
And even the most cash strapped communities should give a
break for hardship so you don't waste your money.