Buffalo, NY - South District Councilmember Christopher P. Scanlon filed a resolution with the Buffalo Common Council calling for an ordinance amendment to update the policies and procedures for tow truck operators. Amendments would require tow companies to either staff their facilities on weekends so owners can retrieve their towed vehicles or cease weekend charges, and to accept additional forms of payment, including credit cards. Currently, towing companies require cash payments.
The resolution also requests that the city’s Department of Permits & Inspections to inform all licensed tow truck operators in the City of Buffalo that per City Charter, they will be fined if they do not report all towed vehicles to the Buffalo Police Department via the 911 Lieutenant.
The proposed ordinance amendment comes in response to complaints by residents and police officers regarding current towing practices that often leave vehicle owners confused and with an unreasonable burden placed on them. Despite being required to inform the Buffalo Police Department of the make and model of all towed vehicles, tow companies do not always comply. As a result, vehicle owners who believe their car has been stolen contact the police. Time and resources are then wasted by the BPD to locate the stolen vehicle when in fact, it was simply towed.
Despite towing vehicles 24 hours per day, tow companies have specific hours for car retrieval. They do not allow owners to retrieve their cars on weekends, but charge for storage. If a vehicle is towed on a Friday, the owner is without a vehicle all weekend and charged almost double the cost of the tow - approximately $400. Making it even more difficult on the owner, tow companies only accept cash.
“This resolution isn’t questioning the need for towing or absolving vehicle owners of the fiscal responsibility,” said Scanlon. “But current towing practices place an unreasonable burden on the vehicle owner, as well as the Buffalo Police Department and cause excessive inconvenience.”
“If a company has someone towing vehicles 24 hours a day, I’m unsure why they do not allow vehicles to be retrieved over the weekends,” said Scanlon. “But if this is a practice they insist on sticking to, there should be no charge for storage when there is no option to pick up your vehicle on those days. Perhaps most mind boggling is the cash only requirement for payment. There is no excuse in 2018 for a business not to accept credit cards, especially one that charges large quantities of money.”
The resolution will be discussed at the May 1st Common Council meeting and is expected to be adopted.