Archive for Saturday, February 28, 2009

Violence between car owners, repo workers on the rise

February 28, 2009


— Alone in his mobile home off a winding dirt road, Jimmy Tanks heard a commotion at 2:30 a.m. just outside his bedroom window: Somebody was messing with his car.

The 67-year-old railroad retiree grabbed a gun, walked out the back door and confronted not a thief but a repo man and two helpers trying to tow off the Chrysler Sebring. Shots were fired, and Tanks wound up dead, a bullet in his chest.

The man who came to repossess the car, Kenneth Alvin Smith, is awaiting trial on a murder charge in a state considered a Wild West territory even by the standards of an industry that’s largely unregulated nationally. Since Tanks’ death last June, two other repo men from the same company Smith worked for were shot, one fatally.

“It’s gotten to where it’s a crazy world out there,” said Smith, 50, an ex-Marine who preaches part-time and sings gospel music. Smith said Thursday that he fired in self-defense after Tanks fired a shot.

With the U.S. dealing with an economic slide that has cost millions of jobs, the number of vehicle repossessions is expected to rise 5 percent this year. That’s after it jumped 12 percent to 1.67 million nationally in 2008, said Tom Webb, chief economist with Manheim Consulting, an automotive marketing firm. That followed a 9 percent increase in 2007, creating more opportunities for bad outcomes in an industry where armed confrontations and threats happen every day.

Joe Taylor, whose Florida-based company insures repossession companies, said licensing and training is the answer to avoiding such violence.

“If a guy is just put right on the street without training, the potential for violence is very, very high,” said Taylor, who runs Insurance Services USA.

Federal law says workers can’t “breach the peace” while repossessing items, but it doesn’t go further to state just what that means, leaving definitions up to courts.

All three Alabama shootings were in the middle of the night, which an industry leader said was a sign of a problem.

The three states that actively license and monitor recovery agents — California, Florida and Louisiana — report less violence than other states, Taylor said. But most state legislatures aren’t interested in repossession law until people start dying, he said.

“You don’t find many state legislators who have had a car repossessed. They are just unfamiliar with that world,” Taylor said.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

Why am I not surprised that you would approve of a job that is inherently violent in nature, Mike?

There is absolutely no reason that this type of legalized car theft is allowed to exist. A landlord can't just enter a property and throw out tenants who've fallen behind in their rent-- and for good reason-- it's a recipe for violent confrontation.

Likewise, holders of car liens should be required to follow proper due process, and if it's ruled that they should be able to reclaim the car, the repossessor would have to repossess it under the supervision of law enforcement.

And the wild-west days of bail-bondsmen and bounty hunters should end, as well. They shouldn't be allowed to detain anyone for any reason. That's the job of law enforcement personnel.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 2 months ago

Violence between car owners, repo workers on the rise

So sad... making the required payments is part of continued car ownership. ... What is this world coming to. .

skinny 9 years, 2 months ago

Bozo! You either pay up or you lose it. That's the way it works. If you don't like it then don't ask to borrow money against it! After all, the buyer did sign the paper work agreeing to the terms of the loan, did they not??

You know Bozo people used to go to jail when they didn't pay their debts (bad checks or bogus loans) 40 or 50 years ago. I think we need to revert back to the older days when your word meant something!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

"Bozo! You either pay up or you lose it. "

Agreed-- but sending in a thug in the middle of the night to steal it isn't the way to go about it.

rollcar 9 years, 2 months ago

I agree with Bozo. Being light on cash is no reason to treat a person with such disrespect. Yes, the car should be taken, but this is a civilized society. Go through the proper legal channels, but don't sneak onto a person's private property in the middle of the night, or follow them and leave them stranded at the grocery store.

Perhaps I am giving the human race too much credit, but I firmly believe that the vast majority of people who fall on hard financial times do not do so on purpose, and had every intention of making the payments at the time they took out the loan. Sure, there are dirtbags in every corner of civilization, but most people have simply hit a rough patch in their lives. It's no reason to kick them while they're down or treat them like criminals.

It's easy to tell who has and has not been through hard times themselves. Kind of like how you can tell who has had to work a crappy job at some point in their life by how they treat "the help". Disgusting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

If we really wanted crap like this to stop, we'd be putting the bankers who hired this repo guy on trial for complicity to murder. Mafia tactics are mafia tactics, even when the banker uses them.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 2 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

If we really wanted crap like this to stop, we'd be putting the bankers who hired this repo guy on trial for complicity to murder. Mafia tactics are mafia tactics, even when the banker uses them

Or maybe the buyer could either make the payments, or talk to the lien holder. Hiding from the lenders tends to make cars disappear. How unfair.

rollcar 9 years, 2 months ago

I don't believe anyone is arguing the necessity of repossession, only the tactics that are being used. Take the car, but treat people with respect until they have shown they don't deserve it. If you told me that this victim had repeatedly turned down opportunities to surrender the car peacefully, then maybe showing up at his home at 2:30 AM would be justifiable. If that is not the case, then his blood is on the hands of the repo men and the lender that hired them.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

"A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconciousness."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 2 months ago

This really isn't that hard to deal with. The lien holder supplies the police or sheriff's department with evidence that the loan is in default, the repo man then notifies the police when he's found the car, and the car is repossessed under the presence of the police or sheriff. That way there are no disputes as to the legality of the repossession, with no wild west shootouts.

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