Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Tow Troubles Follow-Up
We're talking about hundreds of people who had their cars towed on Black Friday near the Sawgrass Mills Mall. Tonight, one city passing a law to keep something like that from happening again. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is live for us at Sunrise City Hall where that meeting just wrapped up a little while ago.
WSVN -- Carmel Cafiero: "When the mayor of Sunrise learned hundreds of shoppers had been towed on Black Friday he was furious and now he's doing something about it."
Mayor Mike Ryan: "This is a persistent problem throughout the county."
Mayor Mike Ryan asked the Sunrise commission to get tough on towing. He submitted an ordinance, that among other things, would require tow companies to accept more than one method of payment and prohibit kickbacks to people who call in tows. It's basic protection motorists do not have in much of Broward County.
Mayor Mike Ryan: "I think it's time to have comprehensive protection, so I've asked the county to look at our ordinance, try to adopt what they think can work, but let's make sure we're protecting the consumers, everywhere in the county."
One after another, commissioners expressed outrage at the mass towing that took place around Sawgrass Mills Mall.
Commissioner Sheila Alu: "This is absolutely outrageous conduct."
Commissioner Larry Sofield: "It put a little black mark on our city."
The vote was unanimous to pass the ordinance, which becomes final after the first of the year.
As we first reported earlier this month, the Black Friday shopping event became a Black Friday towing event at businesses around the perimeter of the Sawgrass Mills Mall. Something the mall says it had nothing to do with.
Now, 7 News has obtained security video that shows some of what went on. Here, six tow trucks move in to take away vehicles parked in the lot of a restaurant that had closed for the evening. Starting Thanksgiving night more than 300 cars were taken away. In what appeared to be an orchestrated event, taxis turned up to take stranded shoppers to the tow lots at $45 a ride. This cell phone picture was taken around 4:30 in the morning by a shopper waiting to pay at All County Towing in Downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Brianna Rhue: "It was just a very sad sight. You have young kids with their mom's who were supposed to have fun with their kid's on Black Friday."
According to Sunrise Police Department records, it towed more than half the cars taken during Black Friday. Signs make it clear the company accepts cash only and provides no change.
Brianna Rhue: "Let's say it was $124 and you gave them $140 expecting to receive change, they didn't give you change."
In a statement, All County Towing told 7 News: "The vehicles parked during Black Friday were improperly parked."
Many of the towed cars came from the parking lot of Applebees, although the restaurant corporate owner says it did not authorize the after hours towing. The company is so concerned about how shoppers were treated Applebees is offering to reimburse shoppers for the towing and taxi bills and is even giving a coupon for a free meal.
Carmel Cafiero: "Meanwhile, the Sunrise Police Department is still investigating to determine if any laws were broken during all that aggressive towing."
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