Fine adds insult to injury Theft: One driver's tale of woe begins when his car was stolen. The good news: He got it back. The bad news: It was ticketed while the thief had it. Guess who was told to pay?

Intrepid Commuter

December 29, 1997

CHEVY FLEISCHMAN will always remember 1997 as the Year of the Soak -- as in the financial bath he took at the hands of a car thief, Baltimore's awesome bureaucracy and even the city police force.

Fleischman's woes started in June when his car was stolen. Informed by a police officer that the vehicle had been located, Fleischman was told that if he went to the city's impound lot within one day to claim it, he would not have to pay a fee.

It seems that this was not the case. Fleischman claims it cost him $70 to retrieve his car and "city police deny that the statement was ever made."

Still smarting from the car theft and the reception he got at the impound lot, Fleischman had to face the city's parking fine division -- after his vehicle was slapped with a $20 parking ticket during the time it was stolen.

Enter the bureaucrats.

"I informed the parking fine division of Baltimore City that my car was stolen and I had a copy of the report from the impound lot indicating so. This was insufficient," Fleischman informed your wheelster.

"I was told I must submit $10 to obtain a copy of the police report and then submit that to avoid paying the $20 fine."

Unfortunately, Fleischman was about to leave for an overseas trip -- and he returned to Baltimore to find the $20 fine had more than doubled with late penalties of $32.

"The absurdity of the process astounds me," Fleischman declared -- and Intrepid heartily agrees.

It's best not to fight City Hall -- but how can you help it when your car is vandalized, stolen and parked illegally, then ticketed?

Here are a few suggestions: Perhaps meter maids could be more vigilant in 1998 and run the tags of cars they are about to ticket to see whether the vehicle is hot. Or perhaps the city should set up a program to aid victims of car theft who are forced to fight through the bureaucratic jungle once the vehicle is located.

It's time someone came to the aid of victims such as Fleischman -- who was robbed not once, but twice.

Intrepid seeks snowbirds who travel by train

Calling all Marylanders who plan to make the trek from Virginia to Florida on Amtrak's Auto Train next month. Call the Intrepid hot line at 410-783-1800, Ext. 4305, or from Anne Arundel County, dial 410-268-7736 and leave your name and phone number. A Sun reporter would like to interview you.

Lower gas prices get more holiday drivers going

Gas prices were nearly 13 cents cheaper in early December over last year's prices, AAA of Maryland reported last week.

That translates into an average of $1.17 per gallon for self-serve unleaded fuel this month -- less than December 1996's price of $1.30. The prices came from a survey of 30 gas stations in Maryland, excluding Prince George's, Charles and Montgomery counties.

Experts say the savings are a result of a drop in demand for fuel, which contributes to the pricing.

With the lower gas prices, AAA predicts many Marylanders are traveling to New York, Williamsburg, Va., and Orlando, Fla., this holiday season, joining the expected 44.5 million people expected to travel 100 miles or more through New Year's weekend.

That's an all-time record, AAA says, and part of a trend that has seen holiday travel increase 26 percent over the past five years. Travelers are using the holidays to vacation as well as to visit relatives.

Shortcuts

Maryland Transportation Authority police cars are equipped with LoJack Auto Recovery Network devices. The LoJack tracking system allows police cars to locate stolen vehicles that are using a transmitter and homing device. Transportation authority police vehicles patrol Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the Fort McHenry and Harbor tunnels and the Key Bridge. Look out for a new traffic pattern in Edgemere and Sparrows Point beginning Jan. 5. The existing Exit 43 ramp from Interstate 695 to Routes 158 and 157 will be closed permanently. The ramp will be replaced by a temporary exit just north of the Key Bridge toll plaza just before the Bear Creek crossing. Drivers are urged to use caution while adjusting to this new flow.

Pub Date: 12/29/97

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