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January 25, 2017

New Philly law will crack down on predatory towing operators

Towing Laws
alleged towing scam south philly Adam Malliet/For PhillyVoice

This photo shows Adam Malliet sitting atop his car in protest as a tow-truck operator attempts to haul it from a space on South Broad Street in July.

Police will soon begin cracking down on predatory towing practices in Philadelphia after Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill into law that enacts more stringent regulations on operators.

Kenney added his signature to Bill No. 160682 on Tuesday afternoon, his office announced Wednesday. The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez (D-7th District), prevents towing companies from targeting vehicles in private parking lots and driveways that haven't been ticketed by Philadelphia police, the Philadelphia Parking Authority or other law enforcement agencies. Last month, the bill passed with overwhelming support in City Council by a 15-1 vote.

The law carves out an exception for vehicles parked illegally at city hospitals. Those vehicles can be towed without approval from law enforcement.

“Comprehensive towing reform will help ensure that all Philadelphians are protected from predatory practices and that business on our city streets is conducted legally,” Quiñones-Sánchez said.

The bill was prompted by numerous complaints of a "bait-and-trap" scheme that was conducted last summer in South Philly. Several videos and photos of illegal towing were posted on social media to highlight the problem. (Warning: The video below contains profanity.)

Kenney praised Quiñones-Sánchez for leading the effort to clamp down on illegal practices while protecting the city's residents.

Previously, the city operated with a ticket-to-tow practice. But police were the only law enforcement agency tasked with authorizing tows. The new law allows other agencies to coordinate on ticketing efforts.

Enforcement of the new law will begin next Wednesday, February 1.