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Chapel Hill towing company goes high-tech to silence critics

Posted February 22, 2012

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— Inside his modest office on the outskirts of Chapel Hill, the owner of George King Towing Service uses a computer and monitors to keep track of parking violators.

“This is the new age of towing,” King says, watching about a dozen surveillance cameras he installed in each Franklin Street private parking lot he's hired to tow from.

The warning signs make it clear – someone's watching. In an industry slammed for predatory towing, the cameras help settle disputes. King says he saves the videos for at least six months.

“This way, we can verify everything,” King said. "People just make excuses instead of just telling the truth … A lot of them want to scream and whine and cry and say, 'Why did you tow my vehicle? I was inside the business.' And I'll say, 'No, I'm sorry. You weren't.'"

In one disputed case, which WRAL News witnessed, the video shows a man and woman park and leave one of the lots.

“See him with his trench coat on? Right there, he's walking,” King said. “There they go, right off the property.”

Kenny Grabarczyk was one of the violators King caught after his Camaro was parked in a marked tow-zone for more than two hours.

"Everybody else parks wherever the hell they want to, and I park one place just to take care of something in a centralized location and, damn, my car gets towed," Grabarczyk said. "And I ain't got $100."

Complaints about towing recently forced Chapel Hill to change its ordinance. Companies must now put up more signs and can't tow a car more than 15 miles from the original site. They also must accept credit cards and provide receipts.

 company goes high-tech to silence critics Towing company goes hi-tech Towing company goes hi-tech

King says cameras not only allow businesses to keep better track of the restricted lots, they also provide video parking proof for everyone involved.

“I can lie and you can lie, but that video right there's going to tell you exactly what happened,” he said. “It covers me. It covers the property owner, and it also covers the person who parked the car and walked off.”

Katie Perry, a bartender and server at Vespa Ristorante, says that, while she hates to see anyone towed, she admits spaces need to be saved for customers.

“It’s a very awkward and unfortunate event when it happens,” she said. “A lot of people park here so they don't have to pay for a metered space, which at that point, it's a better use of your time to just put that 25 cents in instead of taking a space that you know you're not using that business for.”


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  • blubottle32 Feb 23, 2012

    Unfortunately, this coverage falls well short of the real problems with the Chapel Hill parking situation that can be directly linked to George King and his towing service. Those problems have cost Mr. King at least one contract and led to the town's stronger rules on towing. No amount of technology can replace strong business ethics and common deceny. In a situation I encountered last November, when King's service towed my family's legally parked vehicle contrary to the property owner's own guidelines, his business showed a contempt for the community that is reflected in the "everybody's a liar" attitude he demonstrated that day and repeated in this article. I am sure that Mr. King wants everyone to believe that his new gadgets resolve his issues, but unless he has now adopted "doing the right thing" as a business strategy, he will continue to tarnish the image of an otherwise wonderful downtown. -- Elliott Potter

  • Hammerhead Feb 23, 2012

    I've been to CH hundreds of times since I move here. I've always found a legal parking spot, never had to turn around and go home.

  • tran Feb 23, 2012

    Bottom Line: Don't come here. There's nowhere to park and you might get towed.

  • mpheels Feb 23, 2012

    Parking has always been an issue in Chapel Hill. Many people are too cheap and/or lazy to use the pay lots or metered spots, then walk a block to their destination. The problems got even worse when one of the most popular/convenient pay lots closed for a construction project, forcing those of us who actually parked legally to work harder (for the record, I still park legally, just walk an extra block). The lot with the most towing going on is very clearly marked. There is a sign in almost every spot noting you will be towed if you park there and aren't visiting one of the businesses adjacent to the lot, and they've been there for years. There is no way you could park there and not know about the risk of towing. I don't have any sympathy for people who park in spots owned/leased by small businesses, then walk off to spend their money elsewhere.

  • dmccall Feb 23, 2012

    People should be respectful of where the park, however the enemy is: strip malls in sprawlville. Pick your poison, businesses. We are going to go where it is easy and cheap to get goods and services.

  • dcatz Feb 23, 2012

    "Let's look at this from another perspective. If you came home from work and someone was parked in your driveway blocking your access to your own home what would you do. I'd have the car towed because it's ridculous for someone to park where they know they shouldn't."

    In most of the major metropolitan counties of NC, the law requires you to have a sign warning that cars will be towed with the name and number of the towing company you hired. If you tried to have a car towed from your driveway, unless you had one of those signs, you'd be arrested for motor vehicle theft.

    The proper procedure in that case is to call the police and have them tow it.

  • qbmurf Feb 22, 2012

    Let's look at this from another perspective. If you came home from work and someone was parked in your driveway blocking your access to your own home what would you do. I'd have the car towed because it's ridculous for someone to park where they know they shouldn't. These buisnesses own these parking lots and they are supposed to be for their customers. Why should they continue to pay taxes and maintenance on something there customers can't use. They only have one choice which is to tow the violators. The have signs up to say no parking. It's not predatory towing. It's people disregarding the rules because they think they are above them. If you didn't park in the lot illegally you wouldn't get towed and your wouldn't get damaged. Use the matter between your ears and life will be a lot easier.

  • Dan Cooper Feb 22, 2012

    Vultures shouldn't be confused with reliable, reputable business people. That goes for Repo-men as well who come to your home at 4 am looking for a car not there, owned by someone who moved away a year ago.

  • goodolgal Feb 22, 2012

    Don't the businesses in downtown Chapel Hill have enough trouble attracting customers? This guy has a reputation and no one wants to deal with him OR the businesses who pay him to patrol their parking lots. Thank goodness someone's trying to rein him in -- predatory towing and up 'til now a cash-only business -- I hope the IRS tows this guy to jail.

  • oleguy Feb 22, 2012

    Its a matter of training, Dont touch or use things that do not belong to you, Respect others property,,, When I grew up you did not bother, touch, use other peoples belongings, We did not lock doors at home, or take the keys out of cars,,, Not today