BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City will no longer collect towing fees from victims of auto thefts, Mayor Brandon Scott and city officials said Thursday.

Starting in February, Scott said, the Department of Transportation will waive the towing fees it used to charge owners whose vehicles were stolen and impounded, saying the $130-140 fees placed an “unfair burden” on those victims.

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“We hope that this updated policy will provide victims some relief by not subjecting them to inequitable and unjust fines,” the mayor said. “This is about not victimizing our residents who people who have this unfortunate experience twice.”

Instead, the mayor said, the city will absorb that cost, an estimated $250,000 a year that has been historically imposed on victims of auto theft.

Routinely, owners of stolen vehicles have been surprised by unexpected towing fees when picking up their vehicles from the city’s impound lot. It’s a fee that city officials said often isn’t covered by auto insurance policies.

The policy change takes effect on Feb. 1.

“We are picking up this tab because it’s the right thing to do,” Scott said. “Plainly put, $130 is a lot of money to someone who’s already down on their luck, and we want city residents to know that we will no longer do this.”

The mayor said the change is part of his administration’s ongoing effort to “correct historically unfair and inequitable policies across agencies,” and falls in line with his commitment to “responsible stewardship of city resources.”

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“This is one in a long line of changes our administration is making to implement more equitable practices,” he said. “Removing barriers for victims is a common sense thing that we hope everyone will agree with, and we will continue to do this throughout all of our city operations.”

Scott was joined by Baltimore City Department of Transportation Director Steve Sharkey, who said the measure addresses an extra burden auto theft victims previously faced.

“Before this change, in addition to the shock of having their vehicle stolen, losing a major investment and not having transportation to school or work, residents were faced with paying towing fees when trying to retrieve their vehicles,” Sharkey said.

In the past, Sharkey said, no administrative fees were imposed if a vehicle was reported stolen, but if vehicle owners did not pick up their car within 48 hours of being notified, they were met with administrative and storage fees.

“Moving forward, if your vehicle is stolen, once you provided the police report, all towing fees will be waived,” he said. “Additionally, you may contact parking fines with a copy of your police report for any citations incurred while the vehicle was stolen.”

The policy change does not affect any existing citations that are not connected to the vehicle theft, Sharkey said.

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To learn more about the waived towing fees and policy change, visit the website for the city’s towing division.