Downtown Tempe will no longer be the feeding ground of disreputable towing companies, thanks to changes by the city council.
Visitors to the urban hotspot around Mill Avenue fell victim for years to highly aggressive towing companies that hooked vehicles up within minutes of an errant parking job. Hapless drivers were shaken down for scandalous amounts of money, their vehicles literal hostages. Tammy Leitner of Channel 5 (KPHO-TV) had a good report two years ago on the situation.
The city has finally responded to the aggravation and complaints with a slew of changes.
Under the new rules, towing companies must:
*Accept rental and lease agreements as proof of ownership. *Allow owners and renters to get inside a vehicle to retrieve proof-of-ownership documents. (Can you believe the bastards sometimes didn't let people do this?) *Accept credit card and debit card payments for listed fees. (To prevent the typical shakedown for cash). *Charge no extra fees for paying with cards. (This is a pre-emptive move -- the city knows these companies well). *Charge no fee beyond what is "specifically authorized by Tempe City Code." (As the KPHO example shows, in 2007 the max fee was $120, but Leitner was asked to pay $180).
Private towing companies are now required to notify the Tempe Police Department prior to towing, immobilizing or transporting the vehicle. The ordinance previously allowed tow companies to make that notification within one hour after the tow. This will allow the police department to quickly resolve issues regarding whether a vehicle has been towed or stolen.
The changes go into effect on June 29. But even then, don't expect the towing companies to explain the rules to you as your car's front end hangs in the air.
Asking for a couple of hundred bucks in cash from a desperate car owner is a habit that won't die easily.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.