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Predatory Towing Not Just Issue In Downtown Raleigh

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It is something that would make anyone mad: You park your car outside your apartment, and it is towed.

It is one of many complaints about what some people call predatory towing.

As the complaints stack up, the question remains: What can be done about it?

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker says predatory towing downtown is out of control. Others say it is not just an issue in downtown Raleigh, but across this city and others.

Raleigh resident John Burns lives in an apartment complex off Edwards Mill Road. Within a few months, his car was towed three times from the complex's parking lot.

He said the tow truck drivers were so eager to tow his vehicle that they did not look closely enough for his parking permit.

"The first time, I was confused; I thought my car was stolen," Burns said. "The second time, I was enraged. The third time, I just lost it."

The towing company eventually lost its contract here.

State Rep. William Owens also had his car towed while staying at an apartment complex in Raleigh. That prompted him to sponsor a bill on towing procedures in 1997.

Though the Elizabeth City lawmaker eventually pulled the bill, he still supports restrictions.

Chapel Hill has had its share of towing problems. But the police chief there does not think the state should get involved. He would like to see cities require towing operators to keep records.

"If we maintain records or force companies to maintain records, at least we have something to fall back on when complaints are made," Chief Gregg Jarvies said.

Ace Towing in Raleigh already keeps records. Employee Reuben Massey said record-keeping is a way to clean up the industry while ontinuing to protect the rights of private-property owners who hire towing companies.

"It would weed out the companies that are not following the rules," Massey said, "that aren't doing what they are supposed to do and treating people the way they are supposed to be treated. It's a dirty job, but you can do it in an ethical way."

Mayor Meeker wants to ban towing in downtown from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. But that only addresses downtown Raleigh.

In Chapel Hill, wreckers used to stake out lots all over town. Now, private-property owners have to call the towing operators and tell them specifically which cars to remove.

So far this year, there have been no complaints in Chapel Hill.



Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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