Towing vehicles is not the answer

Does anybody calculate the monetary disruption to society when citizens suddenly find their car missing?

John Hoff

The towing vultures almost got me over winter break, and it nearly cost me a vehicle.

Though they missed me this time, I’m quite unhappy with the inefficient system of towing and so-called “snow emergencies.”

Our public officials need to change their highly disruptive methods of clearing city streets by towing away the cars of unlucky citizens, especially students who move to the metro area from out of town.

Admittedly, my 1990 Dodge Grand Caravan was such a piece of junk I calculated it was more cost-effective to let the impound lot keep the vehicle. The next time it was towed or had a major breakdown would mean reduction to scrap metal and then reincarnation as a kitchen appliance made in China.

I was completely at peace about this idea and even looked forward to soon being free of my burden. So I wasn’t sure how I felt when I returned to my vehicle to find a ticket and “tow tag.”

Maybe, I thought, I should tip-toe away. I could have a beverage somewhere until the tow truck came. But then I realized the tow tag was roughly seven hours old. My vehicle had been tagged by Officer 2286 but, for some reason, it wasn’t towed.

Perhaps it wasn’t towed because the street was so obviously and completely clear of snow. If the street hadn’t been plowed I never would have parked there in the first place. This was what I told some court official when I disputed the ticket in a hearing that lasted roughly 45 seconds.

He believed me. Not guilty. But that wasn’t good enough. I filed a formal complaint with the Civilian Police Review Authority and then, for good measure, I filed a duplicate complaint with the Internal Affairs Unit.

Let them sort it out, I say.

I have to admit, the system for disputing traffic infractions is easy and accessible. You hop the light rail to downtown and get off at Government Plaza. Wander into the first building you see. Stagger to the first room on the first floor. Take a number. Wait your turn to tell some dude your excuse. Not guilty. Home free, baby.

Some things about the system work just fine. But how does it makes sense to tow vehicles to an impound lot? Does anybody calculate the monetary disruption to society when employees, students and/or parents suddenly find their car missing? Sure, streets get cleared when vehicles are towed. What about lost wages and crying children left waiting for their mothers?

Why not ticket vehicles but tow the vehicles to cleared streets or parking lots in the same vicinity? People who wonder “Dude, where’s my car?” could call a phone number or visit a Web site to learn their vehicle is a block away.

Better yet, how about a system where vehicles have identification stickers which allow police to call the owner and say, “Your vehicle will be towed in about half an hour, so move it or lose it. Sir.”

Winter is tough enough in Minnesota. The system for clearing streets in snow emergencies desperately needs to be improved.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]