Friday, July 25, 2008

An Ugly Towing Situation In Carrboro, North Carolina


Flickr.com photo

I had never heard of this place, but apparently Carrboro is some kind of suburb to Chapel Hill, North Carolina...

An ugly incident happened in Carrboro which caused a stand-off with a towing operator according to a report in the News & Observer.

The Mayor of Carrboro himself came to the apartment complex, where there were about 100 people gathered and two Carrboro police cars.

One side says a tow truck driver tried to hook a car with a young girl in the back seat. Brad Chandler of Chandler Towing says the parents of the child put their own baby in the rear seat to prevent the tow. Who you gonna believe?

The vehicles are being towed as part of a crackdown by the apartment complex to get rid of unsightly and unregistered vehicles. The issue has turned into a debate about immigration law, since there are allegations the policy basically targets poor Latinos in the apartment complex, and the county's Office of Human Rights is now involved.

A chat on the newspaper website focused--predictably--on immigration issues and not the national trend of abusive towing. Abusive towing tends to come down hardest on the poor and politically powerless because they are the least able to fight back. College students tend to get hard because of their TEMPORARY state of poverty and political disenfranchisement. In Minneapolis, I can see where the Somali community gets targeted.

But I think a lot of injustice could be derailed by asking "is the practice inherently abusive?" and not "can I prove the practice is targeting a certain segment of the population?" Somehow, it just seems intuitively easier to prove abuse rather than targeting.

To prove targeting, you have to know what was going on in somebody's head, which is a difficult proposition.

But to prove abuse, you only need to prove what is happening, which is hardly in dispute: the apartment complex is reportedly refusing to issue parking permits for anything but vehicles which are pristine in registration and appearance, and refusing to allow "commercial" vehicles. This is a drastic disruption of their established pattern and practice, on which their residents have justifiably come to depend.

One poster calling himself/herself "Osprey1" said, "The apartment management at this complex has sought not to give parking permits to most of the residents and it is not just Hispanics that live there. I have a friend who has lived at this complex for 5 years, paid her rent on time and they initially refused to give her a parking sticker because her paint was slightly faded on her vintage Super Beetle, which is not sitting on blocks, by the way. She works every day as a State employee."

The poster adds:

"To the bigots: don't talk unless you have personal knowledge of the situation."

Proof that one should focus on the PRACTICE and not the alleged TARGETING came shortly after the story broke. According to this News & Observer blog, the company apparently didn't have a license to be towing in Carrboro. Which leads us to the rather obvious question of what happens to the folks who were, indeed, towed by this company? More details were provided by a local radio station, which said a resident had been arrested for a physical confrontation with a tow truck driver.

Well, if the guy wasn't licensed, wasn't the towing an auto theft? And wasn't the resident simply trying to prevent an auto theft by confronting the driver?

It sounds like quite a grassroots uprising! The mayor has asked the apartment complex to stop towing cars, but they have refused.

2 comments:

Jeff Brown said...

I don't know how it is where you live but, I get the idea here in Arizona we have very stict laws governing the Towing Companies.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

Well, thanks for that comment, Jeff Brown, and I notice the link to the towing company you work for.

I'm not sure how it is in Arizona, but until today I would have thought the state of Missouri was strict and scandal-free, too, but now I'm reading about this mess with S&H Parking which I'll be blogging about shortly.

I'd love to hear more about these strict Arizona laws you mention and how you see the results of that in Arizona. Do you have the particular statute number handy which governs towing in the state of Arizona?