Detroit adds new police towing software, introduces stolen car storage waiver

The City of Detroit is implementing changes to its police towing policies to increase transparency and help people whose vehicles are towed.

Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Police Chief James White announced the reforms Tuesday. 

On Monday, the city council approved seven towing companies that Duggan said the city believes are ethical and professional. He said the Detroit Police Department will also tow more vehicles. Right now, the department handles about 25% of tows, with that soon increasing to 35-40%.

The primary goal is to eliminate favoritism among towing companies. Additionally, there is a new software system that all requests for tows will go through to be assigned to the tow company next up in line. Any deviation from this schedule will be investigated. 

The new towing policies include: Vehicle status and condition tracking, an improved auction process, and a public website to track the location of a towed car.

The policy will also help victims of car thefts, which are up in Detroit 41 percent compared to last year.  Drivers of recovered stolen vehicles will be able to apply for a waiver for storage fees if they cannot afford them. 

"If you have a hardship case, you don’t have insurance covering your auto theft, we will waive the storage fees," Duggan said.

According to the mayor, the changes have been a work in progress after many issues, including police officers choosing their favorite towing companies and towers finding their own vehicles for their favorite officers.

"It's been a five-year struggle," he said. "We wanted to take the financial incentive out of the market."

Related: Towing company confronted by New Era Detroit, Trick Trick over alleged predatory practices

Last October, FOX 2 shared the story of a heated confrontation between the community group New Era Detroit, and a local tow truck driver accused of illegally towing a woman’s car.

While the exchange was caught on camera, it’s likely one of many we don’t see all across Detroit.

FOX 2: "What do you think the city needs to do as far as its towing policies go?"

"Just make sure they’re transparent first and foremost," said Zeek Williams, New Era Detroit. "Make sure that the companies that they’re hiring, aren’t practicing predatory towing (practices).

"When we talk about the areas specific that cars are being towed in, we’re talking about low income a lot of times. We’re talking about people who are just living paycheck to paycheck."

This move doesn’t come without some pushback.  While the Detroit Towing Association supports the idea, it’s vice president Julie Semma released a statement.

"They are spending taxpayer dollars renovating impound yards, buying tow trucks, hiring staff, and everything else that goes along with this business. Yet, here we are, with $20 million dollar investments in our tow yards, with the expertise and the fleet, and they want to compete with us."

"I think both towing systems promise efficiency," said Capt. Michael Parish, DPD towing monitor. "I think relying on one or the other would not the smart way to do it."

DPD Chief James White says one thing about this initiative is, they’ll hire people released from incarceration and want to enter the workforce. The new contracts for the towing companies will begin on Monday.