About 50 people gathered at a Downtown tow lot late Saturday to dispute the mass towing of vehicles from a parking lot.The story overlooks an even bigger racket than the person taking the $20 for fake parking. Towing companies troll the city looking for vehicles parked in private business lots. They then tow the vehicles and hold them hostage for an exorbinant fees, generally much higher than their regular towing rates. The owner has no choice but to pay the ransom to get their vehicle back. I wouldn't be shocked if the towing companies then kicked back some of these fees to the business.
Police learned of the problem around 11 p.m. Saturday when they were called to Delaware and South Towing, 310 S. Delaware St., where angry owners of the towed vehicles had gathered. A police report said the vehicles had been towed from a parking lot at 510 Madison Ave. The police report said the lot is operated by Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company that has billboards on the lot.
Owners of the vehicles told police they had paid a man $20 to park. They told police there were no signs telling them the lot was off-limits, but those signs appeared just before the vehicles were towed. Police said they found what appeared to have been fresh metal shavings near where the signs were located.
The practice is also illegal. IC 9-22-1-15 requires a vehicle that is left on private property to be tagged with a notice that it is going to be towed if it is not removed within 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-16 then allows for the removal of the vehicle by the private property owner if the owner has not removed the vehicle before the expiration of the 24 hours. IC 9-22-1-18 lets a police officer remove the vehicle after 48 hours.
Indiana law provides an exception to the 24 hour rule if there is an emergency or the vehicle is interfering with business operations. Obviously that doesn't apply if a store is closed, which is often when the towing takes place.
The posting of a no parking/towing sign has no legal effect whatsoever. There is no exception to the 24 hour rule for property owners who post signs. While people may complain that the law subverts the right of the private property owner, the law is still the law. If you don't like the law, the answer is to go to the legislature and get it changed, not simply ignore it. I would suggest though that the reason the legislature did pass the law is exactly because of practices such as towing companies trolling for vehicles in private business lots and then holding those vehicles for a ransom.
It is surprising that a class action lawsuit against the towing companies and the businesses who work with them, has not been filed. Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in towing fees being collected from this illegal practice, it is only a matter of time.
Note: I have written on this subject before when A-Mass Towing decided to tow the vehicles of several people who had come to watch the Veteran's Day parade.