Birmingham City Council

Birmingham to Air Proposal on Predatory Towing During Wednesday Public Hearing

Fquasie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Birmingham City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday to discuss predatory towing practices in the city.

For more than a decade, Parking Enforcement Systems, a private towing company operating in downtown Birmingham, has been the subject of numerous complaints over its practice of removing cars from downtown lots. In May 2013, the council approved an ordinance capping towing fees at $160 per vehicle — PES had been charging more than $280 — but complaints that the company has aggressive practices have continued. In one instance in September, a 29-year-old Birmingham resident was shot and killed on a Parking Systems Enforcement lot after an argument with a PES employee over a towed vehicle escalated into violence.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (Source: City Facebook page)

Earlier this year, the Birmingham Department of Transportation placed 10 signs near private lots in the downtown area warning drivers about the possible risk of being towed. Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson has called for the city to revoke the city’s towing license, calling them a “parking trap.”

In May, Mayor Randall Woodfin posted on Facebook that “a new towing ordinance is being drafted to address (residents’) concerns,” while Council President Wardine Alexander said the council was planning to “tackle these instances of predatory towing … strengthening our ordinances (to) protect residents from these unsafe practices and nuisances.”

Wardine Towes Alexander

Those potential changes to the ordinance will be announced at June 7’s public hearing, which is slated to take place at 6 p.m. at the Boutwell Auditorium. Residents looking to speak about the issue should arrive at 5:30 p.m.

“This is something we get complaints about every single weekend, and sometimes in between, because we have issues with our ordinance,” said District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “I think we need to tighten it up. … All the people who’ve been towed away need to come to that meeting and let us know how they feel, even though they’ve already called us a million times and we haven’t figured out a way to fix it! But we’re going to.”