Tow manager denies charge of 'spotting' Police say company used scout to identify cars parked illegally at lot

November 01, 1996|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

The manager of a Cherry Hill towing company has denied using a "spotter" to help locate illegally parked cars at a Catonsville shopping center during Ravens games, a practice prohibited by state law.

William Frank Walls Sr. of Taneytown said yesterday the company he manages, All American Towing, did not use a spotter, or lookout, to identify cars at 40 West Shopping Center on Sept. 29 or Oct. 27.

"We don't spot parking lots," said Walls, who said his company towed 10 cars Sept. 29 from the lot across from a filled Mass Transit Administration park-and-ride lot at Route 40 West and Geipe Road used by fans taking a shuttle to Memorial Stadium. "I did not hire a spotter -- it is against the law."

Walls' statement contradicts the findings of a Baltimore County police investigation Sunday.

Two undercover officers said they saw a spotter driving through the Route 40 Shopping Center lot identifying illegally parked cars, said Cpl. Karen Johnson, of the Western District traffic division.

dTC An All American tow truck soon appeared at the lot, Johnson said.

The tow company was expected to be charged with a misdemeanor today, Johnson said.

The charge, illegal use of a spotter, is a violation of the Maryland vehicle law and carries a $70 fine.

Johnson said she initiated the undercover investigation after police received complaints of cars being towed from the Route 40 lot Sept. 29, the day of a Ravens home game.

A motorist whose car was towed told police that about 50 cars were towed from the lot that day.

The company charges motorists a $170 fee when their vehicles are towed.

Walls, who said his company towed 10 vehicles illegally parked, said he did not use a spotter to locate the illegally parked cars.

A representative of the shopping center's management company, Metropolitan Management, identified the vehicles, he said.

But Billy Berman, a Metropolitan Management property manager, said yesterday he was not at the site but authorized Walls to locate and tow illegally parked cars on days of home games.

Berman said his company has placed many signs in the center's lot warning that cars are subject to towing if they are parked illegally.

"I was not there personally to help identify cars. They used their own employees to do that," Berman said.

He said he is perplexed by the state law and wonders how tow companies can legally do their jobs removing parked cars without a lookout.

But Johnson said the only way to do that is for the management company to be at the site and point out cars to tow truck drivers.

"If the property manager were present, it would be OK," Johnson said. "But they can't leave it up to the tow company."

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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