Tow-truck operators would be forbidden to tow cars from private lots without a parking ticket from the police or Philadelphia Parking Authority under a bill that appears headed for City Council approval.
Council's Committee on Streets and Services recommended full Council approval Wednesday for the bill, which also would require all lots to post signs prohibiting unauthorized parking and report those sign locations to the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
Councilman James F. Kenney's bill is intended to prevent rogue tow-truck drivers from taking vehicles from lots where parking regulations and towing warnings are not properly posted. Some drivers have reported signs springing up after parking their cars.
"There is no independent and unbiased decision made to determine if a car is, in fact, illegally parked," Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey wrote in support of the bill. "Rather, the private tower, who stands to profit from towing and storing such vehicles, is called upon to make this decision. This is inherently wrong and has created a system that allows our citizens and visitors to be victimized on a daily basis."
Tickets are required to tow cars from all other areas, and extending the law to private lots would provide documentation through which drivers could appeal their cases if they felt their cars were towed improperly.
Towing companies object to the proposed rules.
Lew Blum, owner of Lew Blum Towing Co., said a photo taken of the illegally parked cars should suffice. Blum said that in almost all cases, his drivers did not tow cars unless directed by the business or property owner.
Ticketing vehicles would mean unnecessary delays in waiting for a police or Parking Authority officer, he said.
In testimony this month, towing industry attorney Janine G. Bauer said many businesses leased or owned lots and needed illegally parked cars to be removed quickly. She and others questioned whether the Police Department, which this year announced it would no longer respond to minor traffic accidents, would have time to issue tickets.
Councilman Bill Green noted that the Parking Authority's enforcement officers did not work between midnight and 6 a.m., leaving police solely responsible for issuing the tickets.
"This will be 56,000 times every quarter that a policeman may have to be called to issue a ticket, and I'll be interested to see on a map . . . where policemen were issuing tickets when major crimes were occurring elsewhere in the district," Green said.
The committee recommended the bill, 5-1, with Green voting against. The bill is headed for a first reading Thursday, with final approval likely next Thursday.