- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Three dozen D.C. tow-truck drivers who met privately at a Northeast hotel yesterday complained that newly proposed regulations would put too many restrictions on them and drive them out of business.
The drivers are hoping for major changes to the regulations announced by Mayor Anthony A. Williams before they are sent next month for final passage by the D.C. Council.
"The way they have these regulations set up now, we're all going to be going out of business when they take effect," said Terrence Ross, owner R&R; Towing and Recovery.
The drivers, representing 22 of the city's more than 100 towing companies, each paid $20 to rent a banquet room at the Ramada Inn on New York Avenue NE, where they held their three-hour meeting. The group plans to meet again next week to discuss a hard-copy version of changes they want made.
"We've got to get organized and get down on paper what we want changed because we've got more power right now than we're ever gonna have," said Mr. Ross, who was made president of the unofficial group after an impromptu vote yesterday.
Many of the drivers at yesterday's meeting said they feel slighted by the mayor's regulations because they weren't included in city-run meetings during the formation of the regulations. "The city never wanted to hear our side of the story," said Beverly Ingraham of ANA Towing.
City officials say a letter was sent inviting all licensed towing companies in the District to a meeting in May to discuss a new system that will track towed vehicles.
"About 25 people showed up, and at that time we were still looking for comments on the new towing system, and that's why we asked them to come and meet with us," said an official in the fraud bureau of the D.C. Department of Insurance and Securities Regulation.
Miss Ingraham said the new regulations would put too much responsibility on tow-truck drivers who often work at the request of D.C. police officers to inform the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) about cars that have been towed without being assured the agency will notify the cars' owners.
Other drivers agreed, many shaking their heads, and compared stories about cars that sat on their impound lots for months after being towed at the request of D.C. police.
Mr. Williams vowed to draft the new towing regulations the first effort to clean up the city's towing industry in more than 35 years in August after a report issued by the office of Inspector General Charles C. Maddox uncovered illegal towing schemes involving police officers.
Additionally the FBI recently concluded a four-year investigation of corruption in the city's towing industry that resulted in 60 arrests 29 of which ended in convictions of persons involved in the towing schemes. FBI officials have declined to comment on how many of those convicted were tow-truck drivers.
The regulations do not clearly identify who is responsible for notifying the owners of towed cars the towing company, the police or DPW workers. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey on Monday said the his department is recomending the regulations be amended to give the responsibility to police officers who request cars be towed.
Several towing operators said they are tired of taking the blame for problems in the industry that are largely caused in their opinion by D.C. police officers who request cars to be towed then leave as soon as tow-truck drivers arrive on the scene.
"I got called by police to an alley in Southeast the other night, and as soon as I started hooking the car up to my truck, I turned around and the officer was gone," said Arthur Farhat of Farco Towing. "The next thing I know, the owner of the car comes around the corner and takes the car from me at gunpoint."

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