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Detroit City Council approves ordinance to overhaul towing

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Boulevard Trumbell Towing

The Detroit City Council has approved an ordinance aimed at overhauling the city’s towing industry, which has been pockmarked by corruption and scandal.

City Council member Andre Spivey recently resigned after pleading guilty to taking bribes from towing interests. Two other Council members, Scott Benson and Janee Ayers, had their homes and offices raided as part of an FBI corruption investigation called “Operation Northern Hook” (neither has been charged with wrongdoing thus far). Multiple Detroit police officers have also been convicted of taking bribes from towers.

The ordinance that the City Council passed 6-0 on Tuesday takes steps to address some of the most glaring issues in Detroit towing.

There will be no more cash-only transactions. Towers can’t tow unless a public or private property owner requests it, and gets approval from the Detroit Police Department. Towers must comply with a fee schedule outlined by the Council. And towers are not allowed to take a vehicle if its owner shows up to reclaim it before it’s been towed away.

Additionally, all towing contracts will be selected through a public competitive bidding process. Currently, towers are authorized via permits, and overseen by Detroit’s Board of Police Commissioners. The new contract system will be handled and supervised by the city’s Office of Contracting and Procurement.

City Council President Brenda Jones, who spearheaded the effort behind the towing changes, said the Council “voted unanimously to protect Detroiters from predatory tow practices.”

In a statement to The Detroit News, Mayor Mike Duggan suggested further changes are forthcoming. "We will now move on to the next steps to assure accountability and transparency in the towing procurement process," he said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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