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N4T Investigators: Towing Trouble

TUCSON – Car owners believe they may have been improperly towed by a Tucson company.

Jennifer does not want her last name mentioned. Her car was removed from an apartment complex on February 2. Her daughter was driving. She was a tenant’s guest. Signs in the lot indicate “resident and visitor entry” and “unauthorized or illegally parked cars will be towed.” She parked in an un-numbered, uncovered space.

Jennifer went to A and B Towing to get her car the following Monday.

“I think it’s incredibly sketchy,” she said. “I think they are very, very rude.”

Towing company employees said Jennifer was disruptive and told her to leave.

“I’m told that if I step back on the property I will have the cops called on me for trespassing, even though they still have my car,” Jennifer said.

When a car is towed from private property, like in Jennifer’s case, car owners have a right to demand their vehicles and refuse to pay. The company may take the car owner to court or send the bill to a collections agency.

Arizona state law says, “The owner […] of the private property shall be deemed to have given consent to unrestricted parking by the general public […] unless such parking area is posted with signs […] which are clearly visible and readable from any point within the parking area and at each entrance. Such signs shall contain […] Restrictions on parking.”

Alvin is a University of Arizona student who does not want his last name mentioned. A and B Towing removed his car from a friend’s apartment complex. The lot has 4 entrances with different signage. One entrance has no signs. One entrance indicates “unauthorized or illegally parked” vehicles will be towed. Two entrances indicate a permit is required. Signs are not “clearly visible and readable from any point” in the lot.

“This could have happened to anyone else,” Alvin said, “and I’m glad it happened to me. I’m glad I got inconvenienced because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else.”

Tucson Police came to A and B to assist getting Jennifer’s car back. She took the car without paying.

She also said the company damaged her car, and officers took pictures.

“I’m concerned that this is going to damage my stellar credit report,” she said. “But I’m willing to take that chance if it meant that this doesn’t happen to some college kids that don’t know any better.”

A Tucson Police sergeant told Jennifer he has seen this issue more than a dozen times at different towing businesses.

“I wish there was something more I could do,” the sergeant said, “where it was more out there what actually goes on with this stuff. I worked downtown by the U of A for 2 and a half years, and this was like a nightly thing.”

The sergeant said he does not think lot owners even realize what is happening when they hire tow companies to protect their property. It was not this year, but the sergeant said he saw multiple complaints from legitimate fast food customers during a recent gem show.

“People were inside eating and they were coming out and their cars were gone,” the sergeant said. “It’s one of those things, and unfortunately it keeps going on. People don’t realize what they can do.”

That fast food restaurant currently has A and B Towing signs in its parking lot.

Peter Keller is an attorney who responded for A and B Towing. Keller said the company follows all applicable laws and regulations, including when they towed Jennifer’s car. The tow was pursuant to a contract with the property management.

“A & B Towing follows the laws and rules, and has no other comment on this situation.” Keller wrote in an email.

A few days after recovering her car, Jennifer got a letter from a collections agency. She said she immediately submitted her dispute in writing. The News Four Tucson Investigators will follow the progress of the dispute.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson – KVOA.

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