- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he has little concern for angry tow-truck drivers who say newly proposed towing regulations will destroy their businesses.
"To make progress with these things, sometimes a few eggs are broken and waves are created," the mayor said during his weekly news briefing. "There's been a widespread push from citizens across the city to get these new regulations in place and that's what we're trying to do."
Three dozen D.C. tow-truck drivers who met privately on Tuesday complained that Mr. Williams' proposed regulations would put too many restrictions on them and not enough on the Metropolitan Police Department or the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW).
The drivers said they are tired of taking the blame when car owners are not notified that their cars have been towed, a problem they say is largely caused by D.C. police officers who request cars to be towed and then leave as soon as tow-truck drivers arrive.
An official in the mayor's office said yesterday the issue of notifying the owners of towed cars has been unnecessarily "ballyhooed" by recent newspaper reports.
"There's way to much emphasis here on notification," said Tony Bullock, a spokesman for Mr. Williams. "Ultimately, it's the owner's responsibility to find out where their car is. … Ideally, we'll have a central number where car owners can call to get information from the city."
Currently, 57 companies tow cars at the request of city police. A few share impound lots, but there are 40 different private lots to which a car may be towed, said Terrance Ross of R&R; Towing and Recovery.
The new regulations call for all vehicles towed at the request of police to be "promptly taken to a storage lot operated by DPW … . If there is no space at a DPW storage lot, DPW may provide written authorization for towing the vehicle to a private towing-service storage lot."
The mayor vowed to draft the towing regulations the first effort in more than 35 years to rid the city's towing industry of known corruption in August after a report issued by the office of Inspector General Charles C. Maddox uncovered illegal towing schemes involving police officers.
The FBI recently concluded a four-year undercover 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 or police officers, even though the inspector general's report outlined the direct involvement of both.
The report noted that some police officers and civilian employees used their positions of authority to further their own companies. For example, one civilian police employee towed cars to a police building during his shift, then used his private tow truck to impound the vehicles after work.
The proposed regulations do not address parts of the inspector general's report that detail police involvement in towing scams and do not clearly identify who is responsible for notifying the owners of towed cars the towing company, the police or DPW workers.
"It's not spelled out in the regulations exactly who will be doing the notification of the owner because the regulations don't need to get into every gory detail about how a program is going to be implemented. They need to provide a backbone," said Mr. Bullock.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey on Monday said that his department is recommending the regulations be amended to give the responsibility of notifying owners to police officers who request the cars be towed.
The regulations 16 pages of new rules that are open for public comment until March 20 would set limits on fees that can be charged by towing operators and require all towing companies in the city to become licensed. Additionally, towing companies would be required to have a city-issued control number prior to towing a vehicle so city officials can track the car.


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