CrimeNews

Unpaid parking tickets low on list of reasons behind towed cars



City of Eugene officials confirmed it: Of the thousands of vehicles that the city towed last year, only a miniscule fraction of these towing jobs were a result of unpaid parking tickets.

However, officials expect that number to dwindle even more because of recent upgrades on parking meters, which allow the use of credit cards.

The responsibility for towing and ticketing vehicles is a bureaucratic affair with overlapping responsibilities and authority shared by multiple civilian and law enforcement entities in Eugene.

EPark, the city of Eugene’s parking service program, is the department most associated with the maintenance of parking meters and parking laws and the writing and enforcement of tickets. It’s this office that utilizes parking enforcement officers, not police officers to write tickets and enforce traffic and parking laws in the city of Eugene.

Epark Parking Services Manager Jeff Petry, said all of his agency’s operations are legal and rarely are its citations overturned in court.

“Of all the tickets we write, only about four percent are ever challenged,” Petry said. “Only half a percentage of citations are ever successfully appealed. We only write tickets that are legal and that we know will be upheld.”

Petry said there are four typical instances where a vehicle will be towed by his agency in Eugene. The first is if the vehicle is impeding the safe flow of traffic. The second is if the vehicle is impeding construction work.  

The third and most common towing instances are in response to abandoned vehicles. A vehicle can be parked at a location for 72 hours before the city will run its information, and attempt to contact the owner to have it removed. If the owner is not reached, the vehicle will be towed. This system often runs on complaints and call-ins from concerned neighbors and residents.

The fourth and final instance under which the city can legally tow or boot a vehicle occurs when an individual has more than two outstanding parking tickets worth $40 each, or at least $80 total. One outstanding parking ticket worth $80 is not enough for the city to boot or tow the vehicle. About two percent of the city’s average 59,000 parking tickets actually result in booting and towing, Petry said.

Eugene Police Department is authorized to write parking tickets, but rarely does so, EPD spokesperson Jenna McCulley said. EPD can assist in a ticket write up or a tow but prefers to leave this duty to the individual parking enforcement officer.

“We’re there to facilitate, not so much as enforce,” McCulley said.

In the event that a car needs towing, the city does not use its own impound, but instead relies on the lots of the five contracted towing companies. The rates these companies charge are reviewed but are not regulated by the city.

These five companies don’t receive direct financial reimbursement from the city but instead rely on fees paid by individuals seeking to regain their vehicles.

The rates and seizures are given out to the various companies on a rotational basis according to City of Eugene Assistant Finance Director Mia Cariaga.

The five companies are A Plus Express Towing, B&R Auto Wrecking and Towing, Dannevik’s Towing, Farwell’s Towing and Ray’s Towing. Farwell’s Towing Manager Pete McKnight said that his company only receives about 20 percent of its business from its city contract. Ray’s Towing also has separate contracts with EPD and the Lane County Sheriff’s Office to tow law enforcement vehicles.

McKnight declined to discuss his company’s specific rates for towing and impounding, but he said that the rates are determined in-house, then reviewed by the city of Eugene. Farwell’s Towing is open 24 hours to facilitate vehicle pick-up from its impound but will charge an unspecified after hours fee for opening its gate.

“We’re not the only (tow company) in the area or with a city contract, but we are required by the city to provide a reasonable response in a reasonable response time, about 20 minutes,” McKnight said.

EPD’s location at the Eugene City Council building also remains open at all times, and will retrieve information for presumed towed or impounded vehicles.

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