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City's towing operation needs more oversight

Date published: 6/10/2014

City's towing operation needs more oversight

Predatory towing is a growing problem downtown with very little safeguards, oversight and resident protection.

There exists a Towing and Recovery board in Fredericksburg, consisting of three appointed members including a property management company representative, a towing company representative and a police officer, each serving a two-year term.

Essentially, area residents are underrepresented on the Towing Board by a tow company client, a tow company and a police officer. Where is the representation of a private citizen, the payers of the fines and fees?

A 2012 report compiled for the City Council showed that approximately 1,900 cars were towed from private properties downtown.

Surprisingly, there were zero official citizen complaints filed against the towing companies. The reason is not that towing was fair and effective, but there exists nowhere a complaint form or forum for residents to complain.

After the City Council reviewed the towing statistics, the mayor promptly increased towing fees by nearly 100 percent without any other scrutiny or changes to the city's towing practices and policies. There was no review of towing ordinances, no safety improvements of towing facilities nor any safeguards that cars be properly towed according to vehicle towing guidelines.

Dimly lit tow lots are a safety concern. Towing an all-wheel-drive on anything other than a flatbed can severely damage a car. And hours and prices that should be clearly displayed to the public are ambiguous at best.

The bottom line is that the process needs to be made fair and safe for all involved--not just for the ticketer, the tower or the originator of towing services, but also the paying public. It's bad for business.

Neil Darling