Responding to complaints about predatory towing in downtown Asheville, Asheville police parked a decoy car off Lexington Avenue as bait on the night of Saturday, Dec. 20, then reeled in their catch.
Police charged two men, 25-year-old Trevor Kyle Ballinger and 32-year-old Leonard Tobias Best of All-Safe Towing & Recovery, with obtaining property under false pretenses after police say they illegally towed a vehicle from the parking lot at 93 N. Lexington Ave.
Officers parked a vehicle in the lot at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday and put $3 into a parking-lot collection box. The lot works on an honor system, so parkers don’t get a receipt when they pay. Police watching the car saw the All-Safe employees tow it away at 11:51 p.m. Police stopped the tow truck on Hill Street and made the arrests.
Earlier this month, Mountain Xpress reported on local towing companies, which many believe take advantage of people parking in downtown lots (see “No Parking,” Dec. 10 Xpress). The story noted that many of the complaints concern All-Safe Towing and that Asheville City Council is poised to change local ordinances early next year with an eye toward clamping down on predatory towing. Danny Jones, the manager of All-Safe Towing, told Xpress that his company operates fairly.
City Attorney Bob Oast says he’s modeling his draft ordinance on the city of Raleigh’s law governing towing companies. That law, says Oast, requires the companies to accept debit and credit cards as well as cash and to be on call 24 hours a day, return phone calls within 15 minutes and release impounded vehicles within 45 minutes. Raleigh’s ordinance also prohibits such companies from hauling off a vehicle if the owner shows up while it’s being towed and caps the fee they can charge in such cases at $50. Some cities go a step further, requiring towing companies to notify the police when a car is removed.
Asheville already requires owners of private lots to post conspicuous signs warning people that they could get towed, and those rules may also be tweaked.