Responding to complaints about predatory towing in downtown Asheville, Asheville police parked a decoy car as bait Saturday night on Lexington Avenue, then reeled in their catch.
Police charged two men, 25-year-old Trevor Kyle Ballinger (pictured on left), and 32-year-old Leonard Tobias Best, of All-Safe Towing & Recovery, with obtaining property by false pretense after police say they illegally towed a vehicle from the parking lot at 93 N. Lexington Ave.
Officers parked a vehicle in the lot 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 after paying. Police watched the car, and 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 the continuing complaints regarding towing companies in Asheville. The story noted that many of the complaints center on All-Safe Towing and that Asheville City Council is poised to make changes early next year to local ordinances aimed at clamping down on predatory towing. All-Safe Towing Manager Danny Jones told Xpress that his company operates fairly.
City Attorney Bob Oast says he’s modeling his proposal on the city of Raleigh’s ordinance governing towing companies. That law requires the companies to accept debit and credit cards as well as cash, says Oast, 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 be tweaked.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor