Local News

Debate Over Predatory Towing Rages On

Posted April 9, 2004 9:14 a.m. EDT

— Following a

heated debate

at a Raleigh City Council meeting Tuesday over predatory towing, the city may look at other options in seeking a solution.

Right now, private property owners in Raleigh must post signs, warning people their cars will be towed. Matt Helfant said he had permission to park in a lot off Hillsborough Street, but to his surprise, his car was towed anyway.

"Those jackals just come and take my car in a mere 30 minutes," he said.

Helfant said what is worse is that it took more than an hour to get his car back.

"It leaves a bad image for anyone visiting the area, and it's a scary experience to walk out of a restaurant or establishment and find your car gone," said Larry Helfant, Matt's father.

Meeker said he wants to stop predatory towing. He does not like people stranded downtown at night, so he is pushing a towing ban from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. While he supports a ban, he does not support regulating tow truck operators like taxi cab drivers are now.

"The real problem here is not the quality of the tow trucks. It's the conduct they are engaging in, so instead of setting up an office for licensing, it's better to just go after the conduct," Meeker said.

Meeker said a "boot" plan would be a compromise. Instead of paying up to $125 to get your car back, getting a boot removed would cost about $50 and downtown patrons would still have their cars close by.

However, tow truck operator Ron Shirley said boots are not the solution. He said they not only keep unwanted cars on private property, but it puts tow truck operators at risk near nightclubs.

"Alcohol is liquid courage. If you have a guy who has to release a boot in front of four or five people who don't want to pay for the boot, you are going to have some confrontations," he said.

Recently, Asheville and Charlotte implemented towing laws. Asheville fines tow truck operators $100 if signs are not posted and the car must be released to the owner within 30 minutes of a call. Charlotte sets a $120 on the amount tow truck operators can charge.

Meeker said he thought it was illegal to cap charges, but late Tuesday, the city attorney reread state law and found it is something the city could pursue.

Follow Five On Your Side's First Investigation of Questionable Towing Practices:

  • July 21, 1999:

    Raleigh Towing Company Makes Court Appearance

  • July 12, 1999:

    Attorney General Files Suit Against Former Brentwood Towing

  • Dec. 2, 1998

    Judge Orders Brentwood Towing to Turn Over Records

  • May 21, 1998:

    Brentwood Towing Faces Misdemeanor Charges After DMV Investigation

  • May 19, 1998:

    Brentwood Towing Victims, Attorney General, Speak Out

  • May 14, 1998:

    Brentwood Towing Gets Visit From State Investigators

  • May 5, 1998:

    Towing Victims Question Practices of Raleigh Company