Posted on November 30, 2011 at 6:22 PM
Wednesday, Nov 30 at 6:26 PM
SEATTLE -- Meet Chris Swanicke who just turned 25 and got a bit of a birthday surprise.
He parked his Mazda truck, November 18, in a prohibited, private spot in front of his Capitol Hill apartment building. An hour and a half later, he came out and his car was gone.
"It made for a very happy birthday," said Swanicke.
Swanicke admits he was wrong to park there but the fee, he says, is like legal theft.
"You can't take somebody's property and hold it and say we'll charge whatever we want for it basically," said Swanicke. "It's a form of extortion...that's legal."
He called Citywide Towing right away and arrived to pick up his truck the very next day. The bill: a $798 shocker.
"That's more than I pay in rent each month," said Swanicke.
Getting towed from a public street is much cheaper because cities contract with towing companies for lower rates. Washington state does not regulate private tow fees. Other states like Minnesota (cap is at $212), Indiana (cap is at $150), and Oregon do (cap is at $157).
But a private spot in Seattle? It appears to be whatever the tow company wants to charge.
"I don't want it to happen to other people. It's probably something that's happening every Friday and Saturday night," said Swanicke.
KING 5 finally got a call back from Citywide Towing. They say Swanicke was very rude and they decided not to give him a break. They say sometime for poor people, they won't charge as much.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sent out a press release Wednesday evening saying, "Exorbitant towing fees as described in Danny Westneat's Seattle Times column
this morning about the young man charged $800 by Citywide Towing may be legal, but they shouldn't be. We are looking at what steps we can take to protect Seattleites from predatory towing practices and charges. I've asked my staff and the Law Department to look into this further to see if there is any action the City can take to regulate or curb these rates. We're also reviewing the City's own policies/contracts with towing companies that tow vehicles on City property and City streets."