Monday, December 04, 2006

End Predatory Patrol Towing in Oregon

The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that patrol towing endangers the safety of the general public, apartment owners and managers and the tow drivers themselves, and upheld California’s ban on patrol towing.

When patrol towing, tow truck drivers are not called by the property owners and do not get authorization to take specific vehicles. Instead, usually in the middle of the night, tow truck operators cruise through parking lots and take any vehicle that they feel they can construe as “harvestable.”

Many states, including California, Florida, New York and Washington, have already enacted legislation to ban the practice.

In those states, tow truck operators must receive authorization to take a specific vehicle -- a signed form -- from the property owner or agent at the time and place of impound. Towing companies may not act as agents of the owner.

In 1994, in the course of deregulating the trucking industry, Congress passed laws preventing states and municipalities from enacting laws affecting the towing industry unless the legislation was safety-related.

While many states subsequently enacted legislation to curb predatory patrol towing as a safety issue, Oregon has lagged behind, and some of the towing operators in Oregon have exploited the opportunity at the expense of the general public.

The U.S. Court of Appeals held that: “…[The] regulation [that] prohibits the removal and towing of a vehicle from private property without the expressed instruction and written authorization from the property owner…[is]…safety-related because ‘the ordinance protects both the vehicle owner and the public from towing mistakes, which may lead to dangerous confrontations, to the owner and his or her family being stranded at a dangerous time and location, to false vehicle theft reports, which waste law enforcement’s limited resources, to unnecessary hazardous tows and to similarly unsafe circumstances. The ordinance also protects against theft of vehicles from private property.’ The California legislature agrees. We now agree as well.” --(United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, May, 2005, West Coast Towing vs City of San Diego)

The good news for Oregonians and for visitors to our state is that bills are being drafted for introduction in the 2007 Legislature that will end patrol towing in Oregon.

Be sure to let your elected officials know that you support this legislation. More on this later.


Anonymous said...

While I'm all for getting rid of predatory towing, keep in mind that beginning on January 1st, the new towing regulations go into effect throughout portland, making it even more difficult for tow companies to tow your car from parking lots. For example, if a tow-away sign isn't a certain amount of feet off the ground, the lot is fair game. This is great for me, because now I can park in the lot at Inn At Northrup Station when I go to work instead of risking a clip from the streetcar.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for ending this practice since it Sergeants Towing took away the $250 that I was planning on spending on a charitable Christmas fund for a family that lost everything in a fire earlier this year.

Anonymous said...

The article on Patrol towing was very well researched and put out with no malice toward tow honest tow operators.
I am a tow operator in San Diego, CA.
The changes to the laws mostly tighten up the regulations, with some of them bordering on the absurd.
I started in 1990 with having to be called to the site by the owner or manager to physically sign for the removal of the vehiclel, so much of this does not change any thing for me.
The new law is absurdly extreme.
It attaches a "Criminal Act" penalty to what was a Civil Matter with fines up to $2500 and jail time, with the motorist still able to sue in small claims court. Is this a violation of our Constitutional Rights? The rights of the Property owners are being trampled all over here. The Motorists are going to run amuck, with no protection for Property owners. Thousands people are being driven out of a job, and on to Welfare rolls.

sean cruz said...

The legislation being drafted in Oregon for the 2007 session does not include criminal penalties or categorize any towing operations as criminal.

Anonymous from San Diego commented that there are "honest" tow operators, and Blogolitical Sean agrees. Research shows that a relatively small number of tow operators give everyone else a bad name.

Those operators whose business model is built around predatory patrolling would be well advised to start making other plans.

Anonymous said...

I'm so frustrated and confused !! my daughter's car was just towed from her Aunt's parkinglot tonight, being there for 15 min to p-up her son in a "future Resident space"they came out to load the kids in the car that was gone!this was also a family emergency as my sister has ppd and needed help asap!21/2 hrs later ,$257 no help from mike or tod or chris at the tow lot!!they said to call tommorrowand talk to the Manager. the dispatch said they were not called , they were patrolling the lot . where can i find legal info on this for Portland, Or. MOM

sean cruz said...

If your car has been towed in Portland, contact the Towing Coordinator at City Hall. Also contact the Department of Justice with your complaint.