Local News

Drivers complain of 'sneaky' towing on Hillsborough Street

Posted September 28, 2009 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2009 7:02 p.m. EDT

— Hillsborough Street in Raleigh is known for a lot of things, but ample parking is not one of them. Ongoing construction has made the fight for spaces tougher.

Hillsborough Street business owners said they hire tow companies to protect their limited parking spots. However, some drivers say "sneaky" towing has become a problem.

According to Raleigh police, 383 out of 1,540 non-consensual tows across the city from Aug. 1 through Sept. 27 came from the Hillsborough Street area.

Dan Mall, property manager for Raleigh Hillsborough LLC, said his company provides towing as a service for the business tenants in the building. They put up visible signs and try to be as fair as possible, he said. However, they can’t let people park without limits, especially if they don’t frequent the businesses.

A man with Atlantic Coast Towing and Recovery, who has a contract with Raleigh Hillsborough LLC, said it's a matter of property rights.

"Would you want someone to park in your driveway and leave?" said the man, who declined to give his name.

Driver Erin Bergstrom said she learned the hard way that it’s important to read the posted warning signs closely.

“No, I didn't really pay attention. (I) just pulled into the parking lot. I just assumed it was for both of the restaurants,” she said.

What Bergstrom didn’t realize is that she was being watched by a spotter who monitors the lots. Once a driver leaves the property or goes to a business not invested in the designated spaces, the tow truck driver gets a call, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

Kevin Sandes calls the practice predatory. He spent $100 to get this truck back.

“This was just really sneaky and not right,” he said. “I know there are signs in there saying, ‘If you leave this property, you'll be towed,’ but what's ‘this property’?”

As long as the warning signs are clearly posted, property owners have every right to tow. People often park and go somewhere else, such as students who go to class for hours, according to several business owners.

But it's a balance for businesses. Most owners declined to comment to WRAL and said they didn’t want to be seen as the bad guy.

Jason Moon, who owns Blush, a women's clothing and accessory store, said towing is important to prevent parking abuse. However, he said he believes it has gotten too aggressive. He and other business owners complain that construction has already cut sales by 40 to 50 percent.

“This towing situation is scaring customers away,” he said.

Attorney Michael Strickland filed suit when his client was towed from behind Dunkin' Donuts, despite showing a purchase receipt. The property owner settled and replaced the tow company. Still, Strickland said he believes there's too much financial incentive to tow quickly.

“It's money in their pocket, and one false move and they'll tow you,” Strickland said. “If they get a reputation for abusive towing, people aren't going to want to be there.”