Detroit police's impound inventory spills onto street, towing companies sue

The Detroit police impound lot on Grand River is overflowing with cars – so much so, the collection was spilling onto the sidewalk and streets on Wednesday. 

"Cars were lined all the way up on both sides of the road and actually the tow truck drivers were coming up, parking and then backing up in order to drop off the cars," said one local resident.

The number of impounded vehicles resulted in traffic congestion – causing significant inconvenience for drivers.

Detroit police say it was all due to an auction where unanticipated issues came up – requiring a significant number of impounded vehicles to be moved over to the sidewalk and street, short term.

However, the towing companies working with the city of Detroit have alleged a breach in contract by the city. Attorney Jim Austin, representing six of the seven companies, filed a lawsuit in federal court.

"The contract that our towers have with the city says that they will take… evidence vehicles to Detroit police lots, and all the other vehicles that they get are supposed to be taken to their own lots," Austin said. "That’s been changed. They verbally, DPD just says, ‘no you’re going to take them to our lots."

With DPD ordering the towing companies to move all vehicles to the police lots, they are depriving companies of their storage charges, Austin said.

DPD sent FOX 2 a statement, countering Austin's argument:

"The DPD rejects any claims that it has breached its contract with private towing companies and will assist the City's attorneys in their defense of these allegations."

Austin says the problem originally began when Detroit police got in on the towing business at the last minute, before a major change in the law.

"They had 15 towers towing for them at the time," he said. "They cut it down to seven and these are the ones they took because they had the facilities, they had the equipment, they had the integrity and that was something they were looking for, and we wanted to be treated like the towers they thought they were getting."

In the meantime, those living near the DPD impound lot on Grand River say they hope to never see a mess like this again.

"You see so many trashed vehicles," a resident said. "You have so much stuff yet it’s so much of an inconvenience."