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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Let Albany prevent tow extortion

Written December 6th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Stopping predatory towing would be a nice Christmas gift for Albany.

Stopping predatory towing would be a nice Christmas gift for Albany.

If tow companies occasionally commit an outrage against Albany vehicle owners, the city council ought to try to stop them. Mayor Sharon Konopa told the council about one such outrage and, with the view toward preventing others like it, asked the police department for a report on what the city’s options are regarding the unauthorized removal of cars.

Konopa mentioned this at the conclusion of Monday’s council work session. As I understood it, the gist of the story was this. A woman living in an Albany low-income apartment complex parked her car in a spot at her complex designated for the handicapped. She has a card that allows her to park there, but it wasn’t displayed. The apartment owners apparently contract with a Salem company to patrol their parking lot. The woman’s car was towed to Salem, and even though the owner has hardly any disposable income, the bill for releasing the car was $500.

Parking violations on private lots may be a pesky problem, though I don’t know its extent. But clearly, towing a car from Albany to Salem and then demanding $500 for its release is outrageous. That kind of conduct offends the conscience.

The Oregon legislature took note of the problem of “predatory towing” when it passed House Bill 3159 in 2013. The law, Chapter 691 of the 2013 Oregon Laws, authorizes cities and counties to license tow companies and set maximum rates for tows not authorized by the vehicles’ owners. Cities or counties that set rates must also set up a process for receiving complaints for violations of the law.

The city council should do what the law authorizes. And it should go further: It should ban tow companies from taking Albany vehicles outside the Albany area. Somebody unfortunate enough to lose his car to a parking mistake should not have to make a 50-mile round trip and pay an extortionate ransom to get his belongings back.

Every private parking lot has signs warning that unauthorized vehicles may be towed at their “owners’ expense.” But having signs all over the place does not justify putting people to more trouble than they can handle or to deprive them of money they don’t have. (And by the way, almost all the towing signs everywhere misplace or omit the required apostrophe. If it was up to me, I’d pass a law that says: Towing is not authorized and is considered vehicle theft if the apostrophe on the sign is wrong.) (hh)



9 responses to “Let Albany prevent tow extortion”

  1. Jim Clausen says:

    “The city council should do what the law authorizes.”

    Doesn’t the law say the disability card needs to be displayed?

    Seems to me that if the driver didn’t want a tow fee then they should have displayed the card…

    How is what happened not “doing what the law authorizes”?

    • Draconian penalties for minor infractions are wrong and should be avoided. Compared to the full range of possible wrongdoing, parking in the wrong spot or forgetting to display a permit is very minor, and should be treated as such. (hh)

      • Shawn says:

        Hear, hear.

      • Jim Clausen says:

        Again I ask, “Doesn’t the law say the disability card needs to be displayed?” Draconian or not, it’s the law… are we now above the law?

        • Shawn says:

          Punishments must fit the offense. $500 and a tow to Salem does not fit the offense. Laws are not black and white, but meant to be applied with discretion, that is the America I grew up in. Beliefs such as ‘all laws are equal, all are black and white’ belonged to the Soviet Union, not to the United States.

          There is such a thing as ‘predatory’ enforcement, by private industry trying to use laws not as they were intended, but to fleece others. This is what is happening. There was a good recent article on one of the major news sites about predatory lawyers doing the same thing for ADA laws.

          Police could patrol the streets and give tickets to most every driver every time they leave the house (driving left of center, not a dead stop at a stop sign, 1 mile over the limit), every bike rider (not a a dead stop at a stop sign as well), and plenty of home owners (for items such as a decorative fence that is over 24 inches within 3 (or 4 perhaps) yards of your driveway — I am going from memory here)

  2. Tony White says:

    …and who do you think lobbied to get these predatory laws passed in the first place?

  3. Warren Beeson says:

    Seems incredible that the apartment management didn’t personally contact the (apparently) unauthorized parker. Could there be more to this story? Perhaps, eg. a serial offender? Seems reasonable to check it out before writing up another city ordinance.

  4. Hazel Siebrecht says:

    If apostrophes being used incorrectly really bothers you, as it does me, you won’t want to check out the reader board at Cork’s donuts!

  5. John Hartman says:

    How is it that the issue of “tow extortion” is just now coming vaguely into focus for Albany’s elected leadership. It is December, 2016, yet Albany City Fathers and Mothers would have the electorate believe that illicit towing and punishing towing fees are a new and unexpected phenomena, perhaps worthy of some desultory Council examination.

    It’s like someone on the Council said recently in regards to finalizing zoning issues on legal recreational cannabis businesses, “what’s the hurry.”

    Of course, the citizenry is not fooled by the feigned angst of City Leaders pretending to be angered by the preying tactics of tow companies. Just par for the course. We urge the Council to move with all speed to end the scourge of illegal tows. Haste is essential. If the council moves with the deliberateness demonstrated in the recent zoning kefuffle surrounding pot sales, any and all vehicles could be snatched-up by illegal towing operators before we know what hit us.

 

 
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