The tilted playing field between towing companies that snatch cars off Chicago streets and parking lots and motorists who own those vehicles got a bit more level Wednesday.
The City Council, with debate, approved a “towing bill of rights” in response to an avalanche of complaints about Lincoln Towing, the company made famous in the Steve Goodman song, “Lincoln Park Pirates.”
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) led the charge for the bill of rights just three months after a tense public hearing on the towing issue that featured a heated exchange between Pawar and Allen Perl, an attorney representing Protective Parking Services doing business as Lincoln Towing.
“People are tired of being abused by tow truck companies. Simple as that,” Pawar has said.
“If you have a store or a business or a private parking lots, you should be able to maintain that without having people parking illegally. Tow truck companies need to exist. They just need to learn how to behave. And they need to do it in a way that’s not abusive or criminal.”
Pawar has described as a “game-changer” the requirement that “each relocator” provide the Chicago Police Department with an annual list of locations where the company has an “active contract to remove unauthorized vehicles.” The list would stipulate whether the agreement is to patrol the lot, or simply remove vehicles “upon request.”
Another “big deal,” as Pawar put it, is the requirement that towing companies “install on-board cameras on all vehicles used to relocate unauthorized vehicles” and provide motorists with “video and audio of the tow,” upon request.
“People should get towed if they park illegally. They just shouldn’t be abused,” Pawar said. “They shouldn’t have their car damaged. They shouldn’t have their items stolen. They shouldn’t be threatened. This is a consumer protection.”
The Towing Bill of Rights approved Wednesday would require “relocators” to post signs, spell out rates, photograph the illegally parked vehicle before its towed and release vehicles if the owner arrives with the keys before it is towed.
If the owner of a relocated vehicle is not able to immediately pay to retrieve the vehicle, the company must give that motorist access to the vehicle to retrieve any personal belongings.
The Police Department would also have to be notified “within 30 minutes” of every tow.
The ICC is considering whether the strip Lincoln Towing of its state towing license after an avalanche of consumer complaints and petitions signed by more than 3,000 people, many of them Pawar’s constituents.