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Friday, February 09, 2007

City of Portland--Predatory Patrol Towing--Citizen's Rights

If you have been shaken down by a tow truck driver out patrolling, one of those snag-and-drag operations, you need to read this… because THESE ARE THE RIGHTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU HAD!

If you have returned to your vehicle and found a tow truck driver in the process of snagging your vehicle, demanding cash from you on the spot, you need to read this… because THESE ARE THE RIGHTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU HAD!

If your car has been towed—or almost towed—from private property in Portland without either your knowledge or permission, you need to read this, because THESE ARE THE RIGHTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU HAD!

These really, really are your rights. I’m not making this up. I have enlarged and added emphasis to Citizen Right #8, because this is where they begin to steal your money :

These rights currently apply in Portland, Oregon only! And only if you know about them, which you don't.

The Oregon Legislature is about to change all that!

The following is published by the City of Portland:


If your vehicle has been towed from a private parking facility, you are entitled to the following:

1. Assistance in obtaining transportation to pick up your vehicle, such as a telephone call to a taxi service or information about bus service.
2. To receive information about the applicable rates when calling for release information.
3. To wait no more than 30 minutes for an attendant to arrive to release your vehicle outside of regular business hours which are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday, excluding official City holidays.
4. To receive a clear, itemized receipt for all charges.
5. To pay for the tow by cash or a valid credit or debit card bearing the VISA logo and issued in the name of the vehicle owner or owner’s agent.
6. To receive correct change for your cash payment.
7. Assistance in retrieving ownership documents from the towed vehicle.
8. Release of your vehicle at no cost, if the hookup is not complete and the truck rolling forward when you return to your vehicle.
9. Information about how and where to file a complaint with the City of Portland.

Complaints should be directed to:
Towing Coordinator
City of Portland
Bureau of Licenses
111 SW Columbia Street, Room 600
Portland OR 97201
FAX: (503)823-9068


This document is for real, but the only place you can find it is posted in the towing company’s offices, and they sure won’t give you a copy.

The important thing to understand about Citizen Right #8 is this:

These patrollers have a contract with the owner or manager of the private property that places the decision-making for the tow entirely into the hands of the driver, who is working on a commission/bonus system. He only gets paid if he hooks you.

For example, the largest apartment property owner in the Cully neighborhood in NE Portland is the Hacienda Community Development Corporation (CDC).

The patrollers provide this “service” to the property owners/managers for free.

Hacienda CDC contracts with Retriever Towing to patrol its Cully apartment lots, and Sergeant’s to patrol its two Plaza de Los Cedros triplexes.

The patrol towing business model relies completely on snagging and dragging vehicles before Citizen Right # 8 forces them to give the vehicle back for free.

That’s why they have to snag it quick and drag it quick. Citizen Right #8 means an empty pocket.

It’s either your pocket or theirs, and they have your vehicle in mid-snag or maybe even in pre-snag.

Somebody is going to drive away with an empty pocket, and you are standing there wasting this driver’s time.

He will take either your cash and your vehicle, or just your cash.

The thing is, the driver sees payday with absolute certainty if he can snag your vehicle and drag it to the lot, and he avoids having to deal with you at all.

Snag and drag is the secret to success, and success means being able to get two weeks of fishing for marlin down Baja way every now and then.

Snag and drag. Snag and drag. Speed is the name of the game.

My guess is this is how Retriever broke my transmission while patrolling a Hacienda CDC property next to my house at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. Ruined my whole weekend, I’ll tell you. But I digress….

The City of Portland says the patrol towers can’t demand payment from you if they haven’t towed you. This is the essence of Citizen Right # 8.

I’m going to repeat that for clarity: “The City of Portland says they can’t demand payment from you if they haven’t towed you.”

If you are there to remove the vehicle, and they haven’t actually towed you yet, they get nothing. They get paid to tow. Not to watch you drive away. Nobody pays them for that, they have to get the money from you.

Their job is to move the vehicle and, since you are there to move it yourself—there is no need for their “service.”

And they have no right to demand cash from you.

Speed being the answer, and with Citizen Right # 8 and the Patrol Towing Business Model at odds in the balance, the drivers often jerk the vehicle around the corner a block or two to buy themselves a little extra time to attach the safety equipment.

The cleanest, least troublesome tow for the patrol driver is the one where he’s gone before you know it.

Like I said earlier, my guess is that the Need for Speed and Citizen's Right #8 collided, and that this is how Retriever broke my transmission while patrolling a Hacienda CDC property next to my house at 5:30 on a Saturday morning nearly two years ago.

But I digress….

What You Can Do About Patrol Towing

The Oregon Senate Commerce Committee is considering legislation to regulate the Private Property Impound (PPI) towing statutes.

This legislation has wide popular support, even among the towing industry itself. Most towing companies operating in Oregon provide legitimate business services, and these companies are understandably angry about being tarred with the same brush.

Now is the time to get your predatory towing complaints heard. Write, email, show up to testify.
Change is coming to Oregon in the PPI patrol towing rackets, and many people in the Capitol itself are rooting for this legislation.

The critical bills to watch and support are:

SB 116
SB 388
SB 389
SB 390
SB 431

If you have a towing experience you want placed on the record, before the Committee votes on the bill, now is the time to act.

You can look up the bills at by bill number

Send your towing horror story to your state representative and your state senator (look up the addresses at

Also to the members of the Senate Commerce Committee, addresses also at

And to the offices of Senator Avel Gordly and Senator Ryan Deckert, who are both working on the legislation, at

And to the Consumer Fraud section of the Department of Justice

Don’t forget the newspapers and local television. They are all interested in these stories.

Did I remember to tell you? That my guess is that the Need for Speed and Citizen's Right #8 collided, and that this is how Retriever broke my transmission while patrolling a Hacienda CDC property next to my house at 5:30 on a Saturday morning nearly two years ago?

Well, in case I didn’t, my guess is that the Need for Speed and Citizen's Right #8 collided, and that this is how Retriever broke my transmission while patrolling a Hacienda CDC property next to my house at 5:30 on a Saturday morning nearly two years ago.

Did I remember to mention that Retriever’s tow drivers trespassed on my property on three separate occasions and stole the cars right out of my driveway? That they did so while patrolling Hacienda CDC's apartment lots?

Retriever claimed that Hacienda CDC’s off-site manager ordered the tows.

Hacienda CDC’s off-site manager claimed that they told Retriever expressly not to tow from my property.

Hacienda claims that they don’t know anything about towing. Hoo boy, I just got a look at the numbers, at the numbers of Retriever and Sergeant's tows off of Hacienda CDC properties per the patrol towing contract Hacienda CDC is inflicting on the NE Cully neighborhood.
The patrollers are feasting over there in that low-income neighborhood, snagging and dragging. Thinking about how those marlin are biting down there off Baja.
Lots of immigrants over there in Cully, too. Snag and drag. Speed is the key.
Even better when the vehicle owner has never heard of Citizen Right # 8 and doesn't speak English.

Wait'll the reporters get ahold of those numbers....


Anonymous said...

In Washington state, private property tows can only be done lawfully after the property owner or manager signs an authorization document -- in other words, NO "patrol" towing allowed. Works fine for us.

sean cruz said...


You are right. California is the same. The patrollers have been riding roughshod over people in Oregon for a lot of years, and these towing bills are the most popular in the Capitol by a long shot.

thanks for writing.

ravenwings said...

thanks for publishing this blog. back when this came out, i read your blog and contacted avel gordly and all. i never have gotten my money back from the predatory tow in front of my apartment (in unsigned disabled parking; i am a disabled tenant....): but our apartment owners were pressured by the Housing dept in clackamas county, to immediately stop that particular sneaky kind of towing. now they have to give 24 hour notices in this apartment complex.
but i'm still trying to catch up on the 360+ dollars it cost me with all costs counted. they do this to the poor, and it is devastating. they really harm people.
that's kinda why they used to hang HORSE THEIVES back in the old west. private transportation is extremely vital to a lot of people's survival.

towmator said...

Sean they broke your transmission on the van because they didnt use dollies on the drive wheel's. Dollies are the little set of double wheel's you see on the back of every tow truck. Slip a pair of them on and the whole car would be off the ground and your wheels wouldnt trun and you'd still have a tran.

Anonymous said...

my BIKE just got towed this morning and it wasnt even in the parking lot! it was chained outside of the fence. but they still claim it was on their property. the tow guy cut my lock and dragged it into the lot (legal?). He didnt give me the towing number, which apparently is what the city needs for their records. does this mean its an illegal tow? i dont know but i have a friend who has family that works for the city so we'll have to see...