Provo City Council votes unanimously to end 'predatory' towing

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PROVO — Provo City council voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of an ordinance that will put more restrictions on local towing companies.

Provo Mayor John Curtis said that towing problems wont be resolved overnight but said this is a good way to crack down on this issue.

After more than two hours of discussion Tuesday night, the council voted 7-0 in favor of the new ordinance that would require the authorization of the property owner on which the parking violation is taking place or a peace officer makes the request.

The amended ordinance puts more restrictions and requirements in place for the administration, property owners and tow companies.

Curtis and the staff have worked for nearly two years on this amended ordinance. Parking has been a big problem in Provo for years because some towing companies offer incentives for employees to boot or tow cars. Those employees are said to have been on the prowl, looking for any car out of place.

Two options were laid out Tuesday night for the council and spectators. Towing companies either have to have a request made my a property owner before they can tow or boot, or they have to have a contract with a property owner or company to freely check for illegally parked cars.

It's time to undo our mistake. I want to put the decision back in the hands of property owners and take it away from those who profit by the tow.

–Provo Mayor John Curtis

The new guidelines will start up at the beginning of 2014 and the "call to tow" option begins in February.

And if a business or property owners wants to contract with a certified city towing company, the registration has to be done by Jan. 31. The ordinance also caps how much certified towing companies can charge people if they are towed or booted.

“It’s time to undo our mistake. I want to put the decision back in the hands of property owners and take it away from those who profit by the tow,” Curtis wrote on his blog. “At the same time I realize we have responsible owners who are managing the tow companies and I don’t want to penalize them. As a result, the ordinance we are asking the council to approve will have a method for responsible owners to continue functioning as they do now.”

Earlier this year, Curtis addressed “predatory” parking enforcement in a blog post. In it, he discussed the private parking enforcement companies contracted by property owners. Currently, with the consent of property owners, contracted companies can tow or boot any vehicle violating parking rules within minutes of the parking violation.

“In essence we allow a towing company employee who makes 30 percent ($52.50) commission to decide that a car needs to be towed instead of the owner who is trying to carefully manage their property,” Curtis said.

The council will go over the issue again next December to see if the ordinance made a difference.

Contributing Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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