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L.A. Council Votes to Seize Cars of Illegal Trash Dumpers

October 01, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council approved a strict package of laws Tuesday that would allow officials to seize the cars of those caught dumping trash, buying drugs or pandering.

Under laws approved in the past year, the city seizes cars of those caught soliciting prostitution or drag racing.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who pushed for the punishments against those caught dumping furniture and large pieces of debris, said the law is necessary because nothing else has worked.

"Let's send a message that you cannot commit this crime," she said, adding that the problem of illegally dumped sofas and construction materials is paralyzing communities such as Watts and Wilmington.

"This is a community that cannot hope for economic development, because their streets and their alleys look like the S word," she said. "When I bring people in to bring jobs to my community, they take one drive through ... and they say, 'We're not going to invest here, this place is a mess.' "

Only Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa disagreed, arguing that "asset forfeiture is a very serious matter" and he doesn't believe illegal dumping should be "equated with prostitution and illicit drug use." Villaraigosa voted in favor of seizing the cars of panderers and drug buyers.

Since the city of Oakland began seizing the cars of those caught soliciting prostitution in 1998, laws allowing municipalities to take vehicles of scofflaws have become popular.

Although some critics warn that the punishments often seem to outweigh the crimes, especially in cases where the driver is not the owner, many Los Angeles officials said they believe the laws are necessary to send a message to potential lawbreakers.

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