Letter: Detroit should rethink towing policy
In response to the Sept. 30 Detroit News editorial, "Cops should fight crime, not tow cars," the Michigan Towing Association would like to provide further reasons why the new Detroit towing proposal is flawed. The Detroit Police Department has spent the past week trying to convince the public that it has spent nearly a year developing this program. When pressed for details, none have been forthcoming.
The city’s Facebook site pointed out that it examined towing operations of 23 cities, including Boston, Nashville, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The police department likes to use the terms “best practices” to explain why it decided to compete with private business. Yet none of the four cities cited operate their own tow trucks in a similar fashion as Detroit proposes. Each one relies on the private sector.
Los Angeles’ towing program has been a model for many cities illustrating the losing proposition of spending millions on equipment and manpower when the services are already offered by the private sector. Los Angeles relies on 18 private companies to support provide towing. Unlike Detroit, Los Angeles has created a system that has strict oversight over private companies. They use a system similar to internal affairs to combat any potential issue instead of letting them linger.
Detroit has had two towing audits since 2005. Both have found deficiencies in the way the city has handled towing. The 2011 audit indicated that 48 percent of the major issues uncovered in the 2005 audit remained uncompleted. We would recommend Detroit study the Los Angeles model of rigorous oversight and accountability on both sides.
The Chicago Tribune complements The Detroit News sentiment in a story dated Nov. 2, 1996. In part, the article reads, “As an elected public official, Mayor Daley’s primary loyalty must be to Chicago’s taxpayers. And the facts prove that using private contractors is the cheapest and most efficient way to tow abandoned and illegally parked cars from city streets.”
We second The Detroit News editorial in encouraging the council to demand an explanation from both police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan. We would urge city leaders to continue to look for reputable towers to contract with while installing controls that will prevent police officers from engaging in illegal practices. However, our greatest hope would be for them to see the wisdom behind leaving towing to private entities and stop promoting the erroneous idea that this new towing arrangement can generate revenue.
The city has the obligation to make the best use of taxpayer dollars. If the current policy continues as outlined, it will leave the city derailed and calling for a tow in no time.
Joel Ballor, president
Michigan Towing Association