Concerns over alleged predatory towing

PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Claims of predatory towing in the "City of Brotherly Love" have drivers and the mayor steamed. A city resident claims to have captured the practice on tape.

We've learned the police department's Major Crimes Unit is investigating, FOX 29's Jeff Cole reports.

Mayor Jim Kenney says he's been battling illegal towing for more than a decade. Now that he's mayor, he thinks he can do something about it, and that may start with pulling the license of a city tow company.

On July 1 around 8 p.m., Adam Malliet pulled up along South Broad Street near Alter Street and parks.

"I double-checked to make sure it was legal for me to be there," Malliet told FOX 29.

"Up and down the street, no signs that said 'no parking?'" Cole asked.

"Right," Malliet said.

He took a break from practice with a rock band and says he was stunned to find the George Smith Towing Company has his car on the hook.

So, he took a seat.

"I sat on it," he said, laughing. "I just sat on it and told him we weren't going anywhere until the police showed up to verify that they were actually are allowed to tow the car," Malliet explained.

He's not alone with his concerns about alleged predatory towing in Philly.

"He's moving this truck that they parked there so that they could now tow the (expletive) Mercedes behind it," says a South Philly resident on video.

He told us he became so angry about what he was watching from his apartment several floors up that he recorded it. He tells FOX 29 George Smith Towing was placing its vehicles to make it appear it was legal to park there, then towing motorists' cars away.

And sometimes a no parking sign stuck in a bucket would be down when motorists parked and back up when their vehicles were being hauled off, according to the resident.

"Called here for George Smith, looking to get some answers about the South Broad situation," Cole said as he went to the towing lot on South 61st Street.

But the long-time city towing company had very little to say.

One woman drew down a blind in the cahier's booth.

"No comment," a man and woman yelled from inside.

"Did you guys have a contract to do the…" Cole began to ask.

"No comment," the woman shouted again.

"You're wasting your time, my man," shouted the man.

But Mayor Kenney is talking: "These are basically car pirates who go out and steal people's cars off the street. And they've been doing it for a while."

The mayor says he's going after George Smith's license.

"I know we're going to moving hopefully to pull that license of that company, and let them go back in and fight to get the right to do business in the city," Mayor Kenney said.

As for Adam Malliet? His sit-in worked. His car was freed and he stood up.

Again, there was no comment from George Smith Towing. The lot at Broad and Alter is being redeveloped. It's fenced-off. There's no construction under way yet.

City code says cars can't block driveways, but towing companies need a clear sign near the entrance.

Two drivers - who claim there was no sign when they were towed - tell us they may sue, Cole reported.