Birmingham working to address complaints over private towing practices downtown

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - If you’re heading downtown this weekend for the March Madness games, HBCU SpringComing or just a bite to eat, you may notice some new signs warning that your car may be towed.

The city placed several of the signs Thursday morning in front of some privately owned parking lots.

Residents say they’re frustrated with the towing practices of the area, calling it predatory.

“It’s constant,” said Cyd Quick. “It’s daily. It’s anywhere between 50-100 times they circle the lot.” She spots towing companies actively searching for cards to tow on the corner of 22nd Street North and 2nd Avenue.

“We make it a habit of running out to inform people all of the time - ‘Please don’t park here because unless you have a tag on your car, you’re going to get towed immediately,’” she said.

Sometimes those with tags also get their cars towed, like Rebekah Weinberger who works across the street.

“The tag had fallen from my rear view mirror but it landed on the cupholder area,” she explained, yet she was still forced to pay. “I said, ‘You know - I’m sorry that this happened, that it was a random act that it fell off my dashboard but could you possibly give me a break?’ He said, ‘No because if I don’t charge you the $350, it comes out of my own paycheck.’”

The new signs placed around downtown are to warn about the towing practices.

“We’re hoping those signs will add a level of clarity for folks and really just make people aware of where they’re parking and what that means,” said Christina Argo, Strategic Projects and Innovation Division Manager with the Birmingham Department of Transportation.

She says they are not affiliated with privately owned lots or privately owned towing companies, but they want to help how they can. Argo says they’ve placed around 8-10 signs on the north side of downtown.

“The sign is not eye level or car level so I do worry that it’s not visible enough,” said Quick.

Even with the signs, people are warning you to watch where you park.

“Unless you have a parking pass, you’d do much better to park half a mile away and just commit to walking,” said Cecelia Wood. “Get an Uber. See if your friends will drop you off.”

Argo says the signs are just the first step. They are now working on towing ordinance updates to strengthen requirements for these private companies and better protect drivers.

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