Insult to injury: Cops charge robbery victim $10

Lisa Collier feels doubly traumatized. First her purse was stolen from her car in Belmont. Then when she went cash-less to the Charlottesville Police Department for a copy of the incident report, she had to cough up 10 bucks.

"It seems ridiculous after going through something like that when everything's been taken," she says.

Collier's troubles started on her birthday, September 2, when she parked outside her mother-in-law's house across from Belmont Park and left her car windows down.

Collier grew up and lived in Belmont until two years ago. Never had she worried about locking her doors. But this day, when she returned to her car, her purse was gone.

The handbag is the center of many women's lives, and a disappearance wreaks havoc in a well-ordered world. Besides losing her wallet, driver's license, and ATM and credit cards, there was an irreplaceable loss: Collier's digital camera with pictures of her son.

"I've had pictures on it since my son's first birthday, and he's almost four," she laments.

The officer to whom she reported the theft told her to go to the police department for a copy of the report and that it would cost $5.

Unbeknownst to Collier, on July 1, the cost of incident reports went up to $10. "I wouldn't have had it if my sister-in-law hadn't gone with me," says Collier. "I couldn't go to the ATM or write a check, and I had no ID to go to the bank."

And then came the Catch-22: the clerk asked her for identification.

"Our general policy is you need to show proof of identification," says Sergeant David Shifflett, because the reports contain names, addresses, and other personal information.

Collier needed the incident report to show her bank to stop payment on checks and to waive a $15 fee for a new ATM card.

Charlottesville police have been charging $5 for incident reports since the mid-1990s. City Council voted to increase that fee, as well as the cost of accident reports, which now cost $15. Fingerprints are a comparative bargain, dropping from $10 to $5 a card.

Shifflett says he doesn't know of any exceptions that would be granted to someone who just had every cent stolen along with her identification.

"I'm not aware of very many complaints," he says. "Numerous police departments polled around the Commonwealth charge fees, and I feel very strongly ours is not out of line."

Albemarle police charge $5 for a report to insurance companies or lawyers and $25 if they have to go into their archives.

"But if you come in and ask, we'd give you a copy of the report," says Lieutenant John Teixeira. "We don't charge people who've made reports."

Collier, 33, did get her purse back the next day from a man who saw it on the side of U.S. 29 near Ruckersville. Most of her belongings were there– except for the essentials. Of the $110 cash, identification, and plastic keys to her financial life, Collier mourns most the digital camera with photos of her son.

"It wasn't a very good birthday for me," she says.

Collier's luck continues a downward spiral. On September 7, she was in a car accident that totaled her car, according to her mother-in-law, Em Collier.

If it had happened in Albemarle County, she could get a free copy of the accident report. But because it was in Charlottesville, it'll be $15 if she needs one.