Grand Theft Auto in Wilmington, Delaware

How One City Cashes in on a Towing and Impound Racket

In Wilmington, Delaware, any car with more than $200 in outstanding fines can be towed by private towing companies. Vehicle owners have no way to contest the tickets or seizure without first paying the city everything it demands in parking tickets, fines, fees, and penalties. If they can’t afford to pay in 30 days, the companies get to scrap their cars and keep their full value, returning nothing to the property owners and not even crediting part of the value of the car to the underlying fines. In exchange, the city gets a free impound program; property owners lose everything. In today’s episode, we will talk about all the ways that this system violates constitutional rights—and what two residents are doing to fight it.