Medallion towing system benefits Baltimore, residents

March 04, 2011

The leap by the Sunpapers from the indictment of 17 police officers alleged involved in a kickback scheme with a body shop to the need for an overhaul of the Medallion towing process ("On towing, Baltimore cuts a lousy deal," March 1) speaks volumes to the underhanded attempt by a city employee to blacken the eye of the Medallion towers and the towing industry. The real story is that Majestic Body Shop somehow recovered the alleged $300 police kickback through the repair of the car, most of the time at the expense of our automobile insurance rates.

The Medallion towers provide the city with quality, reliable service, quick response and regulated prices. However, The Sun suggests that the towing industry and the Police Department would be better controlled if towing was overseen by a private management company. The city recently considered Auto Return to manage these services but decided against their proposal as it would have meant a loss of as much as $1 million to Baltimore City, a loss of as many as 60 jobs for Baltimore City employees and an additional hidden cost to Baltimore City of at least $1.8 million per year through auction prep fees charged to Baltimore City.

The Sun claimed that Baltimore County's system has more robust safeguards, but let's look at the price paid for those safeguards. First, there was the immediate increase to the price of a Baltimore County police tow to the consumer by $32 per tow, of which $22 goes to Auto Return. Second, Auto Return has reduced the number of contractually licensed towing companies in Baltimore County by eliminating two companies, one of which was the only minority towing company contractually licensed through Auto Return. Finally, of the more than $420,000 that Auto Return earned from its contract with the county, not one cent was returned to Baltimore County.

Does it sound as if Auto Return would have been a good deal for Baltimore City?

Paula Protani, Baltimore

The writer is a spokeswoman for Baltimore's medallion towers.

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