I left for work at 7:45 a.m. on 5/13/09. The evening before I had parked my car about 1/2 block from home, by Two Guys Garage. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my car was gone. Had it been stolen or towed? I was not parked illegally and I was not blocking their driveway.
Let me tell you about Two Guys Garage. They are open about 2 - 3 hours/day about 2 or 3 days/wk. (the kind of job that I would like!). They also own Two Guys Towing Company. They are located at the base of a triangle where two streets converge.
This is one side of a loooooong driveway. There is an equally long driveway on the other side
They have a driveway on both sides of the triangle, taking up about 8 - 10 precious parking spaces. About 4 years ago they went on a towing frenzy. The neighborhood went wild, contacting the police as well as local politicians. Two Guys was told that they were entitled to one entrance to their business, not two. At the time, each person towed had to pay $185.00 cash to get their car back. Things have been very quiet with the garage and neighbors for the past 2 years.
I had heard a rumor that they were towing again. Since I was not blocking their driveway and there is not any "No Parking" sign there, I didn't hesitate to park there on Tuesday evening. However, knowing their history, I was suspicious when my car was gone. I called the number for the Towing Company at least 15 times between 7 & 10:15 a.m. (when they finally returned my call). I also called the Police at 7:15 a.m. to explain that my car was gone and I did not know if it was towed or stolen. They ran my plate # and told me that there was no record of my car having been towed. I discovered that a private towing company cannot tow a car in Philadelphia without notifying the Philadelphia Police.
DH was already at work and as a teacher he cannot just leave work! I called a friend who agreed to drive me to a few known impound lots to see if I could find the car (While I continued to call the Towing Company). By 9:30 a.m. I had not found the car or heard back from the Towing Co.Two Guys Garage was not open and my car was still missing. At this point, I called the police to file a stolen vehicle report. The responding officer was very nice. He indicated that Hondas were popular among thieves and since the car was missing for 3 hours (that we knew of) , he thought it was best to report it stolen. Once again, he ran my tag # and vin #. There was no report of my car having been towed. He suggested that if I did not hear from the towing company within the next 30 minutes, I should contact my insurance company, report the car stolen, and give them the # of the police report. Should I discover that the car was towed, as soon as I saw the car on a lot, the officer told me to call 911 and ask for a Supervisor.
It was now past 10:15 a.m., and my friend and I were heading towards yet another rumored impound lot. Just as I was about to call my insurance company, my cell phone rang at 10:25. It was Two- Guys Towing Company! They had towed my car! They gave me the location of the lot and said that they would meet me there within 20 minutes. We were at the designated lot in less than 5 minutes and called 911 as instructed.
A Police Sergeant arrived promptly and listened to my tale of woe.A minute later the Tow Truck arrived. Two goons got out and approached us. Sternly the officer told them to "open up that gate and give this lady her car". They replied (with attitude) " for $250.00 we'll open the gate". The officer told them that if they didn't open the gate immediately, he would call someone to break it open. They complied and we all entered the lot, with the Sergeant telling them that they had no right to tow my car since they had not reported it to the city and did not have permission to toe. One of the goons said that they had contacted the 4th district police last night. At that point the officer instructed me to get in my car and drive it out of the lot,saying that he would call for another officer to take the report indicating that the stolen car was recovered. Everyone followed me out of the lot.
As we were waiting for the second officer, one of the goons asked the Sergeant if he knew a specific person. He said that he did. The goon went on to say that this person was a good friend of his and that they had been together the night before. The tense conversation suddenly turned VERY friendly with lots of chuckling about this mutual acquaintance. One of the goons actually apologized to me for any inconvenience he may have caused (it was now 12:20 p.m. and I obviously wasn't going to make it to work that day). I glared at him and told him he was a scumbag! I told the Sergeant that I would pullover across the street to wait for the second officer.
Finally, the recovery report was completed and I was about to leave when I saw the Sergeant comming toward my car. He was smiling and said that he had managed to save me the $250.00 fine, but that the goons had a $51.00 ticket for my car having been "Double parked" last night. I told him that my car had NOT been double parked and that I was not paying the ticket. He advised me to go to the Police Station near home and file a complaint. He returned to continue shooting the breeze with the Goons!
Off I went to the 4th District Police Station to file a complaint. I'll spare the details of my conversation there, except to say that I could not file a complaint about the ticket, or an illegal towing operation. I could appeal the ticket at traffic court ( and take more time from work) and win since the officer who allegedly wrote the ticket wasn't on duty at the time noted on the ticket 11:38 a.m. (not to mention that me and my car were at work at that time on 5/12). They told me that the only person that I could talk to was the Community Relations Officer who was on vacation all week! Interestingly enough as of this morning, 5/17, my ticket has not been recorded in the city database of parking violations).
My councilman is investigating whether they are, in fact allowed to have 2 driveways for a lot that is less than 50' wide. I have filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Department of the Philadelphia Police. I do believe that certain officers are intentionally or unknowingly supporting an illegal towing operation. Now, I fully realize that there are MANY problems much bigger than my parking woes in this big city. Parking is a major quality of life issue for many city residents. I do not think it should be difficult to find out what parking restrictions are legal/illegal and why. And, I'd certainly like to know if Two Guys Towing is paying their fair share of taxes on all of those $250.00 fines they are collecting!