The Police Service of Northern Ireland collected a whopping £65,000 from the victims of vehicle crimes and crashes last year, it has emerged.
The police forced said they retain the total per annum to cover the cost of ‘administration costs’ associated with the scheme.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request found that 12 garages across the country handled the recovery of 3,623 vehicles in 2020.
Vehicle Recovery Operators (VRO) charged £763,483 for their services, with the storage of the vehicles costing a further £246,458. That brings the total to just over £1million.
Daily storage charges are between £10 to £35 per day depending on the size and weight of a vehicle, according to the PSNI.
A spokesperson for the police force said that registered keeper of the vehicles are informed where it is being kept once it has been recovered.
It is understood that as soon as the vehicle is no longer required by police and is released, the owner of the has one full day to recover their vehicle before storage charges start to accrue.
However, the PSNI said charges should not be covered by the public purse, saying that insurers are usually liable to cover any costs.
Meanwhile, official statistics show that car thefts dropped last year by 839. In 2019 the police said 3,471 vehicle thefts were reported compared to 2,632 in 2020.
A PSNI spokesperson said administration charges for any vehicle recovery was to cover the costs of their centralised liaison model as part of the scheme.
The model electronically creates a record of vehicles involved in a crash or crime, while also providing further police instruction regarding examination, retention and release.
“As soon as a stolen vehicle is located it will be recovered immediately by a forensically aware operator who is contractually bound to attendance times thereby reducing the time spent by police at the scene,” the PSNI spokesperson added.
“The recovery operator will then store the vehicle until after a CSI examination is completed. The owner will be advised by police that it has been located and, as soon as the examination is completed, the recovery operator will make contact with the owner to advise that the vehicle is available for collection.
“Alternatively, if the vehicle has been used in crime or involved in a road traffic collision there will usually be an initial examination of the vehicle in-situ before it is recovered.
“The owner does not incur any storage charges while the vehicle is retained under police instructions. As soon as the vehicle is no longer required by police and is released, the owner or insurer has 24 hours to recover their vehicle before storage charges start.”
The cash-strapped authority said there is currently a £23 million funding gap, with concern expressed over “real financial pressures” in its draft 2021-22 budget.
Last week, the Chief Constable Simon Byrne said there is concern that as the country emerges from lockdown in April, police will see increased demand with a “gradually declining” workforce.