Councilman Seeks Limit On 'Trespass Tow' Rate

April 15, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,

Baltimore City Councilman Robert W. Curran has proposed a $250 limit on prices charged by towing companies that haul cars from private lots, saying the businesses participate in a form of "piracy."

"They are out there like Pac-Man. They practice legalized vehicular piracy," Curran said Tuesday. "I'm trying to rein them in."

Industry response to the proposal was mixed.

The law allows companies to charge up to $410 per tow, though the city's tow board, which must approve the rates, has not authorized rates that high. Approved rates range from $250 to $350 per tow, and companies can charge less if they choose.

But the Board of Estimates is expected Wednesday to approve a new towing contract that would increase city towing fees by $25 and trigger a corresponding increase of $50 to the $410 ceiling for "trespass tows" on private property. The new contract prompted Curran to seek a lower limit.

Also, Curran wants the rates to be more uniform to lessen confusion over varying charges.

Henry Schogel of Henry's Towing Inc. is allowed to charge $350 per tow, the highest rate in the city, and hauls 50 cars a week on average. He said he would not fight the proposed limit. "I'm sympathetic," he said, noting that many have lost jobs in the harsh economy.

Thomas Lewis, manager for operations with Cherry Hill Towing, said the change would be a "big deal" for his company and would prompt him to look for more cars to haul to make up for lost income. "That is four or five extra people I have to make sure I go get," he said.

Curran was unmoved. "I'm not going to kowtow to the trespass towing industry threats," he said.

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