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Impounded vehicles targeted by criminals

Vehicles impounded by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office are frequent targets of theft and vandalism.

That's why the sheriff's office wants to move the impound lot to a more secure location - near the north side of the new Douglas County Jail on 3rd Avenue West where security cameras will record any criminal behavior.

The Alexandria City Council unanimously agreed at its November 22 meeting to issue a conditional use permit for the new impound lot.

During a planning commission meeting, Sheriff Troy Wolbersen explained that the current impound lot west of the Douglas County Fairgrounds has had security problems.

People are entering the lot, damaging the impounded vehicles and stealing items out of them, the sheriff said. At times, the lot has had between 40 and 50 vehicles parked there.

Because there were so many thefts and broken windows, the sheriff's office changed its policy. Now, doors aren't locked on the vehicles and all items are removed and stored elsewhere.

Despite the changes, people are still breaking windows on the cars, Wolbersen said.

The new location behind the jail will have outside video surveillance cameras with the ability to zoom in on the lot. The impound lot will be monitored by central control within the jail.

The area is zoned as light industrial, which allows it to be used as an impound lot, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

Because the back of the jail is near the Central Lakes Trail, some type of screened fencing of the impound lot is a condition of the permit. City staff will conduct an on-site visit in August to determine the extent of the screening.

Most vehicles are stored for one to six months, sometimes up to a year, as the owner's criminal case moves through the court system, Wolbersen said.

Auctions are no longer conducted at the impound lot to sell the vehicles. Wolbersen said the sheriff's office has been getting a better response selling the vehicles on eBay.

The location of the lot won't prevent any future jail additions. If it does become necessary to expand the jail, which Wolbersen is hopeful won't have to happen, the county would have to find a new location for the impound lot.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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