City police delay new tow-truck licenses Hiatus to allow officials to investigate Sun report

June 25, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officials have decided to delay awarding lucrative towing licenses for two months after a published report showed city and police towing policies were being ignored.

Police Department spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said new towing licenses would not be issued until July 31. The 15 existing licenses, which were to expire June 1, have been extended until then, he said.

"The reason for the delay is to allow for an appropriate and thorough investigation for each of the license applicants," Weinhold said.

The Sun reported in April that two firms with longtime city licenses were not dispatching trucks from the locations listed on city records.

The two companies, Berman's Towing Inc. and Frankford Towing, have been paid more than $1.5 million during the past two years for towing cars at the request of city police.

Under the system, tow trucks are supposed to be dispatched from the licensed operator closest to the accident or other traffic incident. Vehicles are then towed to the city impoundment lot on Pulaski Highway.

Motorists must pay the towing charge -- $64 or $71 per car, depending on from where the vehicle is towed -- and storage and other fees before they can reclaim their cars.

Surveillance by The Sun over several months showed that the Berman trucks were being dispatched from the company's Menlo Drive headquarters in Northwest Baltimore, near the Baltimore County line, and the Frankford trucks were dispatched from the company's main depot at 6300 Belair Road.

Officials of the two towing companies told The Sun they were in compliance with all city laws and regulations.

The newspaper reported that one of the addresses listed on a city tow truck license was of a Fleet Street liquor store, while another was a vacant lot on Washington Boulevard.

Police first notified tow truck operators that their licenses would be extended for one month. An additional month's delay was announced last week.

Pub Date: 6/25/98

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