Monday, March 13, 2017

The City of Portland's Private Property Impound (PPI) system operates in open violation of state law and specifically to the detriment of low-income apartment residents and immigrant populations.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Predatory Towing in Portland: The City of No Back-in Parking

By Sean Aaron Cruz

The Oregon legislature passed reform laws governing predatory towing in 2007, but the news has not yet reached the City of Portland Towing Coordinator’s office.

Predatory towers manufactured the "offense" of Back-in-Parking, colluding with the City of Portland's Towing Coordinator

None of the citizen rights passed in SB431 and SB116 are listed on the Towing Coordinator’s list of Citizen’s Rights when Towed from Private Property.

There is no place where a citizen can learn what his/her rights are, a fact that works to the benefit of the unscrupulous towers and to the Office of the Towing Coordinator itself, which is funded by towing fees gouged from an uninformed citizenry.

The Towing Coordinator has even allowed PPI predators to impose new fees and create a wholly contrived offense called “No Back-in Parking”, where a tenant’s vehicle can be towed from the tenant’s assigned space, even if it is legally parked and registered with the apartment management.

The 2007 legislature enacted laws stating that no vehicle can be towed from a tenant’s assigned space without the permission of the tenant at the time of the tow, and that the tenant cannot be required to agree to towing.

Throughout the City, however, tenants are routinely required to sign rental agreements that expressly require them to agree to have their vehicle towed from their assigned space even for the nonsensical reason for being parked in backwards. These are direct violations of Oregon state law.

The 2007 legislature also banned towers from bribing property owners and managers.

ORS 98.854 A tower may not: (g) Provide consideration to obtain the privilege of towing motor vehicles from a parking facility. For the purposes of this paragraph, the provision of: (B) Goods or services by a tower below fair market value constitutes consideration

The entire PPI business model as practiced throughout Portland is built on the principle that property owners/managers should receive free towing services. There is no other type of service that property owners get for free, but the Towing Coordinator is dug in on protecting these illegal contracts.

Operating a fleet of trucks that burn fuel 24-7 is a money-losing proposition, unless the towers have a way of forcing motorists to pay a ransom or face the loss of their vehicle, which is where the Towing Coordinator comes in, providing the official muscle, often in the form of Portland Police officers responding to 911 calls from vehicle owners. This is where your tax dollars come into the picture. And none of the police officers have been informed of the citizen rights they ought to be protecting.

The 2007 legislature required PPI towers to place warning signs at every entrance to any parking facility they are patrolling, but it is only in the past several months that the Towing Coordinator has gotten around to doing something about it.

The Towing Coordinator has even allowed PPI predators to slap a $ 20 fee on every tow to compensate the tow companies for their signs, with no upper limit, so that the signs themselves are a revenue generator.

Since 2007, failure to provide printed rate sheets has been an Unfair Trade Practice under the Attorney General’s SB 116, but PPI towers have been getting a free ride on that law also, courtesy of the City of Portland's Towing Coordinator.


Sean Aaron Cruz served as Senator Avel Gordly’s legislative staff 2003-2008, led her workgroup on SB 431 and participated in the Attorney General’s workgroup on SB 116.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Portland's #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story publishing again --Know your rights

It has been four years since my last post on predatory towing. The #1 Horror Story is coming back because I have learned that predatory towers have found new ways to gouge the public, because the 2007 reform laws are not being enforced, and because the public has no effective way to learn their rights when confronted with a tow-jacking predator.

Know your rights regarding involuntary towing from private property in Oregon

Your rights include:

[] The right to be provided a printed rate sheet stating the prices the tower charges for goods and services in at least 10-point type. Failure to provide the printed rate sheet is an Unfair Trade Practice (SB116). Violators may be subject to civil penalties up to $ 25,000.

[] The right not to be charged more than a price disclosed on the printed rate sheet.

[] Protection from illegal PPI towing contracts (illegal consideration).

[] The right to redeem “all personal property of an emergency nature.”

[] If a tenant has an assigned parking space, no vehicle may be towed from the space without the tenant’s permission at the time of the tow.

[] A tenant may not be required to agree to towing.

ORS 98.854 Prohibitions placed on tower. A tower may not:

(c) Tow a motor vehicle without providing to the owner or operator of the motor vehicle the information required under ORS 98.856 (Conditions requiring release of vehicle) in the manner required under ORS 98.856.

(d) Charge more than a price disclosed under ORS 98.856

ORS 98.856 Conditions requiring release of vehicle
--Tower responsibility of disclosure to owner or operator of vehicle

(2) A tower shall disclose to the owner or operator of a motor vehicle in a conspicuous written statement of at least 10-point boldfaced type: (a) The prices the tower charges for goods and services;

(3) If the owner or operator is present at the time of the tow, the tower shall provide the information required under subsection (2) of this section to the owner or operator of the motor vehicle before towing the motor vehicle.

(4) If the owner or operator of the motor vehicle is not present at the time of the tow, the tower shall provide the information required under subsection (2) of this section to the owner or person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle prior to the time the owner or person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle redeems the motor vehicle.

ORS 98.854 A tower may not: (g) Provide consideration to obtain the privilege of towing motor vehicles from a parking facility. For the purposes of this paragraph, the provision of: (B) Goods or services by a tower below fair market value constitutes consideration.

98.858 Right of owner or person in lawful possession of vehicle to redeem vehicle, contact tower and obtain property of emergency nature. (1) A tower in physical possession of a motor vehicle shall permit the owner or person in lawful possession of a motor vehicle the tower has towed to:

(c) Obtain all personal property of an emergency nature in the motor vehicle within the time allowed under paragraph (a) of this subsection

(3) As used in this section, “personal property of an emergency nature” includes but is not limited to prescription medication, eyeglasses, clothing, identification, a wallet, a purse, a credit card, a checkbook, cash and child safety car and booster seats.

90.485 Restrictions on landlord removal of vehicle; exceptions. (1) A landlord may have a motor vehicle removed from the premises only in compliance with this section and either ORS 98.810 to 98.818 or ORS 98.830, 98.835 and 98.840.

 (4) If a landlord assigns a specific parking space to a tenant, the landlord may have a vehicle towed under subsection (2)(g) of this section from the assigned parking space only with the agreement of the tenant at the time of the tow. The landlord may not require the tenant to agree to towing.

 646.608 Additional unlawful business, trade practices; proof; rules. (1) A person engages in an unlawful practice when in the course of the person’s business, vocation or occupation the person does any of the following:

(ddd) Violates ORS 98.854 or 98.858 or a rule adopted under ORS 98.864.

646.636 Remedial power of court. The court may make such additional orders or judgments as may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any moneys or property, real or personal, of which the person was deprived by means of any practice declared to be unlawful in ORS 646.607 or 646.608, or as may be necessary to ensure cessation of unlawful trade practices.

This synopsis of certain Oregon citizen rights regarding involuntary, private property impound towing was prepared by Sean Aaron Cruz, Executive Director, 1000 Nations.

This is not a listing of every citizen right under Oregon state law regarding involuntary PPI towing, but is intended to provide information related to consumer protections passed by the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 2007 under Senate Bills 116 and 431. Mr. Cruz worked on both bills as Senator Avel Gordly’s chief of staff.

Note that none of these rights identified above are listed on the City of Portland Towing Coordinator’s website.

City of Portland posted Citizen’s Rights (May 17, 2013):

Citizen's Rights: PPI    Citizen's Rights when towed from private property
1.     Assistance in obtaining transportation to pick up your vehicle, such as a telephone call to a taxi service or information about bus service.
2.     To receive information about the applicable rates when calling for release information.
3.     To wait no more than 30 minutes for an attendant to arrive to release your vehicle outside of regular business hours which are 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday, excluding official City holidays.
4.     To receive a clear, itemized receipt for all charges.
5.     To pay for the tow by cash or a valid credit or debit card bearing the VISA logo and issued in the name of the vehicle owner or owner’s agent.
6.     To receive correct change for your cash payment.
7.     Assistance in retrieving ownership documents from the towed vehicle.
8.     Release of your vehicle at no cost, if the hookup is not complete and the truck rolling forward when you return to your vehicle.
9.     Find information about filing a complaint or appeal with the City of Portland.

Towing & PPI Program 
City of Portland Revenue Bureau
Marian Gaylord, Towing Coordinator
111 SW Columbia Street, Suite 600
Portland OR 97201

Phone: (503) 865-2489 | Fax: (503) 823-9068

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sean Cruz busts another illegal Sergeant's tow!!

Brazen daylight grab thwarted!!

Portland, Oregon—

I caught another Sergeant’s tow driver attempting an illegal heist of my neighbor’s car from his designated parking spot yesterday afternoon.

The Sergeant’s tow-jacker was in the act of telling the neighbor that his car didn’t have the proper tag and he was therefore impounding the vehicle when he saw me coming and changed his mind about going through with the tow, just like that!

We’ve been down this path before, and Sergeant’s towed a tenant’s vehicle from its designated spot back there, in clear violation of Oregon statute, just a couple of weeks ago.

I informed the neighbor about his rights under Senate Bill 431 (2007), to wit: If your rental or lease agreement provides for a designated parking spot, then they need your permission before they can tow the vehicle. This is the law!!!

This law has been on the books for more than two years now, but Sergeant’s is counting on (your) lack of awareness, continuing to make illegal tows all over town.

It’s a tough economy for predatory patrol towers, too….

Remember, the entire organization runs on commission. I understand that the new rate for towjacking your vehicle is a ransom of $240, plus whatever other fees they can pile on.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oregon House Committee hears predatory towing bill

Portland, Oregon--The Oregon House Consumer Protection Committee heard HB 2578 yesterday, February 25, sponsored by the committee's Vice Chair, Representative Chuck Riley.

Predatory patrol towers are fighting back to protect their towjacking profit margins.

Testimony by a number of witnesses indicated that the patrol towers are largely ignoring the regulations imposed on them by new state laws, still the same packs of junkyard dogs roving around the state.

First speakers up were the Mayor and Chief of Police of the City of Fairview, the first municipality in the state to take action against predatory patrol towing, and they described how 100% of the problem incidents regarding predatory towing went away overnight, with the passage of the citywide ban.

Every city and every county government in the state has the power to do exactly what Fairview has done, simply enact the ordinance.

Now it's up to you, to urge your city and county officials to take action, and to support Representative Riley's bill.

Here's the link to the audio record of the hearing:

Select the date feb 25 2009

The towing bill discussion begins about at the 14:00 mark. My testimony starts at about 1:12:10.

Isubmitted the following written testimony (slightly edited for clarity):

Vice Chair Riley and Members of the Committee:

My name is Sean Cruz. I am a resident of Parkrose neighborhood in NE Portland. I served as Senator Avel Gordly’s Legislative Aide and Chief of Staff, representing Senate District 23 throughout the 2003, 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions. I also claim the distinction of having “Portland’s #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story”, which I write about on my blog.

I led Senator Gordly’s Senate Bill 431 workgroup on patrol towing reforms and I represented her office in the Attorney General’s Senate Bill 116 workgroup, led by Eva Novick. Senate Bill 116 incorporates several of Senator Gordly’s legislative concepts.

Both bills passed the House and Senate with unanimous votes in committee and on the floor, but fell just short of Senator Gordly’s goal, which was to model California’s statute, requiring the property owner or manager to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice, in order to promote the safety and wellbeing of members of the general pubic. California’s law also held the advantage of having been recently upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prior to the 2007 legislative session, Oregon’s patrol towing industry was largely unregulated, and there was a lack of clarity in Oregon statutes as to whether the state and local governments had the authority to regulate businesses built around the involuntary towing of citizen’s private vehicles. The Attorney General, for example, had no explicit authority to even receive complaints from the public, much less act on them.

This fact was enormously frustrating to many Oregon citizens, who often found that the local police were also stymied, with no power over the towing disputes they were often called into other than to allow a tow truck driver to take a citizen’s property away.

There was a widespread assumption that federal law regarding interstate commerce pre-empted state and local governments, and on this basis patrol towing metastasized over several decades, seemingly untouchable, answerable to no authority. It was literally the Wild West, here in Oregon, the only state on the West coast that has not banned patrol towing.

The first thing we had to do in 2007 was to establish that authority.

Thanks to the research of a constituent, Tim Barrett, whose car was patrol-towed less than five minutes after his arrival to visit his son in a Fairview apartment, we found what was needed:

In 2005, in Tillotson vs the City of San Diego, the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals found that California’s law curbing patrol towing was designed to promote the safety of the general public, who might be stranded or whose family might be stranded in unsafe circumstances, and of the tow drivers themselves and is therefore exempted from the federal pre-emption.

Testimony from a number of citizens during the tow bill hearings demonstrated that this was happening frequently, including separating drivers from prescription medications and leaving people in wheelchairs stranded on the sidewalk. You will shortly hear Mr. Michael Meiers describe his experience….

This regulatory authority, in the language used by the federal court, comprises Section 1 of Senate Bill 116, clarifying the exemption regarding the regulation of involuntary towing, including the price thereof.

Paragraph 2 (a) states: “The Legislative Assembly declares that…statutes that assist members of the public in avoiding involuntary loss of use of motor vehicles and in expediting recovery of motor vehicles and the personal property in the motor vehicles promote the safety and welfare of members of the public.”

I want to applaud the City of Fairview, the first municipality in the state to take action under Senate Bill 116, passed on a unanimous vote by this Committee.

Speaking on behalf of Senator Gordly and thousands of aggrieved Oregonians, I want to thank Vice Chair Riley and the Committee for taking this issue on with HB 2578. I wish you great success!

It was not my personal predatory patrol towing horror story that brought Senator Gordly to see a need for legislative action, although when the towers broke my transmission that Saturday morning, they sidelined the vehicle that I used to drive the office carpool to the Capitol every day. We had to switch to Senator Gordly’s Executive Assistant Denise Pederson’s vehicle for the remainder of the session.

I would like to note for the record that 100% of the many dozens of complaints that Senator Gordly’s office received regarding predatory or wrongful towing practices involved patrol towing. None were a result of the legitimate practices and operations of tow companies that do not patrol tow.

Senator Gordly’s legislative concepts came about from what we learned about how the industry has operated unregulated in Oregon, from what we learned directly from interviews with many dozens of Oregonians, from the tow companies’ practices and business model, from the attitudes of its employees, and from the tow company’s own invoices.

Burden placed on public resources

All of these citizens called the police when their vehicles were taken. Unlike any other commercial activity in Oregon, patrol towing creates a direct burden on local police resources, paid for entirely by the taxpaying general population.

This burden begins when the tow driver calls the police to report that he is towing a certain vehicle. Then there is the second call to the police, coming either when the vehicle owner finds her vehicle gone and is reporting it stolen, or when the vehicle owner returns to her vehicle and finds some surly stranger with a tow truck hooking it up. This driver is fully aware that either money changes hands at this moment, or he is wasting his time, about to drive off with an empty wallet.

The third burden on police resources comes when at least one officer is called to the scene, and then anything can happen or might have already happened.

Beyond this lies the burden on the court system that can follow, all at public expense, and all of this hubbub began—with members of the public left stranded in every sort of circumstance—with a decision made by a tow truck driver working on commission, generally in the dead of night, underpaid and under great pressure.

They’re stealing parking….

In the 2007 legislative workgroup discussions, the patrol towers stated that they regarded all of their tows to be lawful and righteous, that they always dealt with every mistaken tow incident swiftly and properly…we disputed that.

In those same discussions, the patrol towers stated their opinion that the people whose vehicles they towed were “stealing” parking. They were thieves.

In their own minds, a small number of patrol towing companies had created a crime called theft of parking, and through a mass of agreements with individual property owners, carved out a niche for themselves as a quasi-police force, with sole authority to make and enforce the law, to act as judge, jury and tax collector.

If your vehicle was towed, it was because you were a thief, stealing parking. And your story was a pack of lies. So when Mary Q. Public came to their tow yard to claim her vehicle, she was viewed as a thief and a liar and treated as such. This is how they described their operations….

Furthermore, it is not only the drivers who are paid on commission. So is everyone else in the organization. So when Mary Q. Public comes to the tow yard and argues about the bill, she is talking to people who are not going to take a dollar out of their own pockets for any reason, certainly not for this lying parking thief.

“Attitude” fees and confiscation

These are the people that have been willfully charging the public “attitude” or “anger” fees in this state for decades.

And they have openly charged the public fees in amounts that are beyond anything reasonable, beyond deterrence, beyond fair recompense, beyond punitive…many of their tows result in the actual confiscation of the car.

In the last interim, Senator Gordly’s office received a call from a constituent in East Multnomah County, requesting our urgent assistance. A patrol tow company was about to auction off a vehicle that belonged to a person who was a patient in the Oregon State Hospital. The towers claimed that the owner owed them $ 2000 in storage fees, accrued since the time they had towed the vehicle from a hospital parking lot.

The young man had gone to the hospital for a medical appointment, parked his car in the lot, but suffered a psychotic episode there and was taken directly to the State Hospital, where he continued to reside. He had no intention of parking there over the limit, and hospital personnel would certainly have not made towing their first choice, if they had a role in authorizing the tow.

If the tow company auctioned off the car, the young man would emerge from the hospital with an unfair burden of debt and without the car. His only income was his disability check going into this situation.

We intervened and the tow company released the vehicle without the charge.

Apples to apples

The patrol tow industry opened this can of worms itself when Retriever Towing took my two vehicles, parked side by side on my own property in my own driveway, at the same time and under the same circumstances, but with completely different invoices and charges, providing an apples-to-apples opportunity to see how they were operating. Those invoices are in your packet as Exhibit “A”.

In March 2005, an absentee neighboring property owner, Hacienda Community Development Corporation, began employing tow companies to patrol the small parking area that serves two triplexes that it owns on a flag lot behind my home.

I park my vehicles on my own property, adjacent to the lot.

I learned about the patrol towing contract the day after the tow company posted its signs in the lot, when I woke up that Saturday morning to find both of my vehicles gone. There was no prior notification by any party to the contract, either to the neighborhood or to the tenants themselves.

I called the number posted on the signs. The tow company affirmed that they had indeed stolen my vehicles and that I could pay just under $400 to get them back that day, or I could wait until Monday if I wanted to talk to a manager. I called the property manager, who did not answer their phone. I tracked down Hacienda’s board chair, who informed me that I should either call the police or wait until Monday. I called the police.

A police officer came to my home, looked at my plat and confirmed that my parking area was my own private property. He then drove to the patrol tower’s lot to request the release of my vehicles, but the patrol towers refused to do so.

Eventually, later that day, after a number of phone calls, including more conversations with the police officer, the towers did release the vehicles. At first, they could not find one of my vehicles, although they knew that they had it.

The following Monday, as I was arriving here for work at the state Capitol, I learned that the towers had returned and taken one of the vehicles for a second time.

My absentee-landlord neighbor’s patrol towers have trespassed on my property and towed my vehicle four times—so far—and broken my transmission in the process.

In each of these incidents, to this very day, all parties to my neighbor’s patrol towing contract have disclaimed responsibility for the trespass, the theft of my vehicle, the damage to my property and for all of the trouble they put me through.

The tow company stated that they towed the vehicles according to their contract with the apartment managers, the apartment management company claimed that they told the towers not to tow my vehicles, and the property owner took the position that they knew nothing about it and that I should work it out with the tow company.

Attachment “B” in your packet is a copy of a subsequent letter from the City of Portland Towing Coordinator to the property owner’s Executive Director, and quoting Bertha Ferran the Hacienda board chair as stating “the tower probably has a contract to provide this service, not Hacienda CDC.”

The Ms Ferran knew with absolute certainty about the contract. In fact, Hacienda’s affordable housing properties generate more patrol tows than any other property owner in NE Portland, upwards of 150 tows a year for some 300 apartments.

Attachment “B” also illustrates the ongoing burden on public resources of patrol towing incidents.

The four incidents at my home involved four different drivers, two different tow companies and two different property management companies.

The only constants are the property ownership, the patrol contract, tow drivers working on commission, and the result. It is abundantly clear that none of these incidents would have occurred had HB 2578 been the law of the land, removing commission-paid drivers from decision making and requiring the property managers or owners to be present at the time of the tow.

From that weekend to the present day, these two different patrol towing companies have subjected my neighbors to the same level of intensity, towing the tenants’ legally parked vehicles, towing vehicles despite clearly displayed Hacienda parking permits, showing up and hooking up vehicles minutes after they were parked, and pulling numbers out of the air. I personally witnessed a driver attempt to extort money from one of the families living there. I went back there and broke that up myself.

Four years later, my van is still sitting in my driveway with a broken transmission, and I’ll bet they are sorry now….

Attachment “A.”

Aside from the name of the company, the two invoices are completely different. No line items on the list of charges and fees appearing on one invoice appear on the other, none are identical, and neither are the amounts.

They can’t possibly both be correct. Which, if any, is correct? The towers took the position that they were both correct.

The towing company treated each vehicle in practice differently as well.

We came to learn that the towers were exploiting a line in ORS statute that prevented regulation if the parking lot held ten or fewer spaces. The lot behind my home had parking for only seven vehicles. The City of Portland had limited authority to regulate towing, and only if a parking lot was larger than ten spaces.

Who knew that the size of a parking lot made any difference in how much an Oregon citizen could be charged, on what fees could be assessed, and in how one would be treated?

These two invoices reflected that reality. The upper invoice in Attachment “A” reflects the fees and line items permitted under the authority of the City of Portland.

The lower invoice shows how the towing company was operating absent of regulation. This also explains the enthusiasm with which the tow drivers were patrolling that seven-space parking lot. More fees and charges, higher commissions, no public authority to regulate. I have seen two tow trucks in that lot at the same time.

Under the regulated invoice, the driver took my vehicle to their tow yard only about 25 blocks from my home in outer NE Portland. The City does not permit mileage to be charged.

Under the unregulated invoice, however, the other driver took my vehicle clear across town to their lot at NW 15th and Quimby.

He charged me $110 for the tow, $16 for his mileage, driving around town, $3 for the fuel he claimed that he burned while towing my vehicle, $10 for taking a photo of the tow (which clearly identifies the trespass and theft), $35 for the dolly he used to break my transmission, and $15 for a dispatch fee. Other than the tow fee, none of these charges were permitted under City code.

And you can see there are boxes for more fees: “Retow fee”, “Retow dollies”, “recovery and winching”, “service call”, “gate fee” and “service fee.”

Note that the regulated invoice has a $ 20/day printed storage fee.

The unregulated invoice daily storage rate is not printed. Here, the driver has written in a rate of $33. Which is the correct number? The tower claimed they were both correct.

The unregulated invoice bears no printed rates or costs. In all cases, the driver alone decides what numbers to put in the boxes and which boxes to check. The form also has a blank line at the bottom of the price column where the driver or lot employee can invent things to charge, like “anger” or “attitude” fees, and write in a number he likes.

And he is paid on commission.

2007 legislation

At the start of the 2007 session, Senator Gordly filed five legislative concepts to address patrol towing, later concentrated into the two bills.

Our contributions to Senate Bill 116, sponsored by the Attorney General, were these:

Section 1 of SB 116 clarifies the authority of the state and Oregon municipal governments to regulate involuntary towing.

Senate Bill 116 also removed the language from ORS that barred regulation of parking lots if they contained ten or fewer vehicles. In the workgroup, with the assistance of Legislative Counsel, we learned that there was no record of why that line was in statute in the first place, or why the number was ten. Even the patrol towers could offer no reason, other than that they thought it was a good idea. At one point, one of the patrol company owners shouted at me that the City had no right to regulate in that parking lot behind my home. Well, they do now.

Senate Bill 116 requires tow drivers to provide vehicle owners with a printed rate sheet, in order to eliminate the practice of commission-paid drivers pulling a smorgasbord of numbers out of the air.

However, a recent patrol towing incident in Wilsonville, where a driver attempted to tow the vehicle of an injured woman fleeing an assault, indicates that the company involved is not complying with this provision of law. In the extensive media coverage that followed, no one, not the police, not even the owner of the tow company, interviewed on-camera, knew how much money his driver had charged the victim. They are clearly not complying with the provisions passed out of this Committee in 2007.

Senate Bill 431

Senate Bill 431 addressed patrol towing abuses in landlord-tenant relationships.

SB 431 prohibits towers from removing vehicles solely for having expired tags. Those tenants’ rental agreements gave them the right to park their car in the lot, and they were violating no state law as long as they kept that vehicle parked and off the street, which is where it was.

SB 431 requires landlords to provide tenants with written notice that includes the actual costs they might face if their vehicle is towed. It is not unreasonable to have a pre-printed rate sheet, but the patrol towers really howled about this one in the workgroup.

Landlords must provide this information at the time the rental or lease agreement is signed, they must update the tenants if and when any of those numbers change, and they must provide the tenants with parking permits. It is highly doubtful that any are complying with this portion of the law passed by this Committee, as none of the constituents who contacted Senator Gordly’s office in the interim and none of my neighbors have received any such notices or rate sheets or parking permits from their landlords.

Opposition to the 2007 legislation came from lobbyists for commercial property owners, who stated that they absolutely needed patrol towing, but acknowledged that they received these services for free. Their agreements with patrol towers permit the towers to load all costs, real or otherwise, and their profit expectations on the backs of their victims.

Unless landlords and property managers participate in the expense of the service and the cost of police resources they rely on….

In closing:

Despite all of the reforms instituted by the legislature in 2007 and ample fair warning to patrol towers clearly and plainly stated at that time by members of the Senate Commerce Committee and of this Committee, most memorably by Vice Chair Riley, little has changed in actual practice. The patrol towing business model itself is to blame

I would suggest that the Committee, as it works this bill, consider provisions requiring the owners of patrol towing companies that are competing for public towing contracts for any public agency or entity, to conform all of their towing operations under any other name to the standards set in the public contract.


Sean Cruz writes:

Blogolitical Sean, political commentary here:

Aaron’s Law, regarding child abduction prevention and resolution here:

Jim Pepper House, dedicated to the legacy of the late, great Jim Pepper here:

Portland’s #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story, regarding predatory patrol towing practices here:

Chicano Hero Cesar Chavez, dedicated to the Mexican-American giant, here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

To Oregon's predatory patrol towers: The end is near!

By Sean Cruz

Portland—There will be rejoicing in the land when and if the 2009 Oregon legislature passes Representative Chuck Riley’s patrol towing reform bills.

As reported by The Oregonian’s Rick Bella, Representative Riley will finish the job begun in 2007 by Senator Avel Gordly (SB 431) and Attorney General Hardy Myers (SB116). See story, here:

The City of Fairview is the first Oregon municipality to act on the authority to ban patrol towing granted to all Oregon cities as a result of the 2007 legislation.

Contact your City Council, urging them to ban patrol towing in your town.

Representative Riley’s draft legislation addresses the commission-based foundation of Retriever Towing’s business model, the root cause of most patrol towing abuses, and the predators are already starting to howl.

Mr. Bella notes that the patrol towing reforms will be opposed by commercial property interests as well as by the towers themselves, the sole opposition to the 2007 bills, which passed both House and Senate on unanimous votes.

It was pressure from the commercial property interests that prevented the passage of the complete ban on patrol towing in Oregon that Senator Gordly sought in 2007, for there are big dollars at stake, and they will be back in 2009.

Retriever’s and Sergeant’s contracts with commercial property owners and managers, deferring on-the-spot decision making to drivers working on commission, is the other part of the predatory patrol towing problem.

In exchange for this authority, Sergeant’s and Retriever provide their “services” to the owners and managers for free, getting 100% of their revenue from their fleets of towjacking thugs.

The commercial property owners demand the service, and they demand it for free. They will carry that argument to the 2009 legislature, and future campaign contributions from this powerful lobby will hinge on how the votes come down.

Representative Riley gave notice during the 2007 House Consumer Protection Committee hearings that if the industry did not shape up before the 2009 session, he would take them on and seek a ban on the practice, and he is delivering on that promise.

The general public still has a role to play in this argument.

Contact your legislators and Representative Riley and voice your support, here:

Stay informed on the issue. If you are able to attend any hearings, do so. Your legislators will be happy to help orient you around the Capitol.

If you are wrongfully patrol-towed, the Attorney General’s office is waiting to hear from you, ready to hear your complaint. 2007’s Senate Bill 116 and 431 empowered the AG to promulgate and enforce involuntary towing regulations on its own authority.

Register your complaint here:

The Attorney General now has the statutory authority to promulgate and enforce regulations regarding involuntary towing, including the price thereof. Many predatory patrol towing practices are now subject to civil sanctions, including prosecution under Unfair Trade Practices statutes.


Sean Cruz writes:

Blogolitical Sean, political commentary here:

Aaron’s Law, regarding child abduction prevention and resolution here:

Jim Pepper House, dedicated to the legacy of the late, great Jim Pepper here:

Portland’s #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story, regarding predatory patrol towing practices here:

Chicano Hero Cesar Chavez, dedicated to the Mexican-American giant, here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Want to end predatory patrol towing in Oregon? The Attorney General's office is open for business!

Portland, Oregon—Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 116 and Senate Bill 431 in 2007, Oregon’s predatory patrol towing industry was largely unregulated, even though the practice had been banned entirely in some other states. Oregon’s Attorney General had no statutory authority to even receive complaints from the public, much less act on them, and the hands of local law enforcement agencies were similarly tied.

Many Oregon motorists learned these facts the hard way, after having had their vehicle tow-jacked and finding that the police and other authorities could do little to help.

Adding to victims’ frustration was the awareness that these private-property patrol towing incidents were costing taxpayers a great deal of public money in their demand on police resources.

Passage of these two senate bills marks the beginning of the end for patrol towing in Oregon.

The rest is up to you, to the general public, and the tools you need are right here:

1. File your towing complaints with the Attorney General’s Office here:

The Attorney General now has the statutory authority to promulgate and enforce regulations regarding involuntary towing, including the price thereof. Many predatory patrol towing practices are now subject to civil sanctions, including prosecution under Unfair Trade Practices statutes.

2. Contact your state representative and state senator here:

Ask them to consider ending patrol towing in Oregon in the 2009 legislative session.

The predatory patrol towing practices of certain Oregon towers (notoriously, Sergeant's and Retriever Towing) were dealt with in broad strokes by the 2007 legislature.

Senate Bills 116 and 431 were passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, indicating the strong public sentiment for towing reforms.
The business model these predators employ is the basis for most of the towing abuses, but it is important to note that the property owners are complicit, by authorizing towers to delegate decision-making to drivers working on commission.

As State Senator Avel Gordly's Chief of Staff, I led the workgroup that drafted her Senate Bill 431.

It is important to note that 100% of the complaints that Senator Gordly's office received were related to patrol towing, and not to other towing activities, and that all of these incidents drew in police resources, resulting in public expense.

Towed or not, all Oregon citizens have a stake in this issue. Your taxes pay for this extra burden on police time and resources.

Senator Gordly strongly supports legislation that would mirror California's ban on predatory patrol towing, requiring the property owner to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice.

That action would end the majority of towing abuses in a stroke.

Contact your legislator(s) and request that action be taken. You would be surprised at how many will be happy you called.

--Sean Cruz


On predators towing vehicles displaying disability placards:

The commission-based compensation system towing predators use is the root of the evil, the sole motivating force behind Retriever and Sergeants drivers towing vehicles belonging to persons with disabilities, often stranding people in wheelchairs.

They do this far, far too frequently…every chance they get, actually….

Most of these tows would have never taken place without property owners agreeing to defer on-the-spot decision-making to drivers working on commission.

Patrol towing companies in Oregon provide their “services” to the property owners for free in exchange for the right to tow at their drivers’ discretion.

Both property owners and patrol towers take it for granted that towing disagreements would involve police and other public resources at taxpayer expense.

The 2009 Oregon legislature needs to address the particular issue of vehicles displaying disability placards, providing an alternative to towing the vehicle away, and a policy of returning towed vehicles to their owners.

Adopting California’s standard, requiring property owners to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice, would go far in eliminating these issues.


Sean Cruz writes:

Blogolitical Sean, political commentary here:

Aaron’s Law, regarding child abduction prevention and resolution here:

Jim Pepper House, dedicated to the legacy of the late, great Jim Pepper here:

Portland’s #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story, regarding predatory patrol towing practices here:

Chicano Hero Cesar Chavez, dedicated to the Mexican-American giant.