Tow truck violations in 45th, 49th precincts

“We have been receiving complaints about excessive fees which violate DCA guidelines (and) unauthorized tows from commercial lots where there is no agreement between ownership/tow company.” – Captain Thomas Alps, 49th Precinct commanding officer.

Commanders at some borough police precincts have launched operations to crack down on unscrupulous tow truck drivers after receiving complaints.

Cops at the 45th Precinct, including its commanding officer Captain Carlos Ghonz, told the public at a precinct council meeting on Thursday, April 6 that they had launched operations to stop ‘spotter’ tow trucks – drivers who watch parking lots.

These trucks wait for motorists to leave a parking lot to go elsewhere before hooking up cars even though they do not have permission from the lot’s owner or manager to tow.

The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, which regulates tow truck operators, requires that store managers sign off on any towing operations at establishment parking lots, cops said.

In some cases in the 45th Precinct, police said ‘spotters’ have been demanding fees in excess of the $62.50 ‘drop fee’ permissible for unhooking a car about to be towed.

Some tow drivers are requesting as much as $150 in cash as the ‘drop fee’ in lieu of towing a vehicle, and not accepting credit cards as the DCA requires.

Bob Bieder, 45th Precinct Community Council president, said that the tow truck complaints were news to him.

“I was surprised to hear about it – that it was going on in our community and happening on a regular basis all over the city,” said Bieder.

“To hear that they are holding people hostage when they shouldn’t be, and towing them when they shouldn’t be (means) basically that they are stealing cars,” said Bieder.

The 45th Precinct is in the process of challenging the medallions of tow operators who operate unlawfully in accordance with DCA procedures, precinct personnel said at the meeting.

In the neighboring 49th Precinct, Captain Thomas Alps commanding officer, said that they are addressing similar issues by giving notice of violations to tow truck operators to the DCA.

“We have been receiving complaints about excessive fees that violate DCA guidelines, unauthorized tows from commercial lots where there is no agreement between ownership (and) tow company and no signs posted in the lot,” stated Alps.

The precinct has also received complaints regarding excessive storage fees charged by tow operators beyond guidelines, he stated.

“We try to intervene in some cases to successfully resolve issues without enforcement,” stated Alps.

In the process of doing enforcement, precinct cops have seized illegal radios that allow some tow drivers to monitor frequencies in violation of law, he stated.

They also seized unlicensed tow trucks where they have also found large quantities of marijuana packaged for sale, stated Alps.

“The tow trucks have been put on notice that we will not stop our enforcement until they cease all illegal behavior,” stated Alps.

Joe Thompson, 49th Precinct Community Council president, said that the tow truck issue has flared up in the precinct over the past two months.

“We are working with DCA so that there are limits on (the tow trucks),” he said.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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