Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nashville may allow only police to use car boots

Under new legislation, private firms couldn't use devices on illegally parked carsBy Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • May 26, 2009 Private businesses won't be able to place tire-locking boots on illegally parked cars under new legislation moving toward a vote in the Metro Council. Police and parking patrol officers will be able to put the tire-locking devices on some vehicles instead of impounding them under a law the Metro Council passed last week. But council members want to prohibit parking lot operators and towing companies from using boots. "It's common sense," said Councilman Robert Duvall, who gave credit to the lead sponsor, Carl Burch, for introducing the bill that gives police another enforcement tool. "Would you rather trust a wrecker guy to boot your car, or would you rather trust a police officer?" The council has been trying to deal with the use of boots — metal locks that stop a car's wheels from turning — for almost two years. A proposed ban on their use by private companies was deferred near the end of the previous council term because some members felt booting was easier on drivers than towing their vehicles. At the start of the new term, the council considered requiring companies to charge drivers the same fee for removing a boot as they charge for getting a vehicle back after it has been towed. That proposal also was deferred as the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission expressed concerns about its ability to enforce any regulations. Police prefer towing vehicles The new law would let police and parking patrol officers — who work for Metro Public Works — put boots on most vehicles that are parked illegally. They can't use them to punish drivers who leave their cars or trucks in a parking spot longer than they paid for. Officers also can lock down a vehicle that's parked illegally for any reason, including "overtime," if the owner "has three or more unpaid parking citations and/or a civil warrant has been issued for the collection of unpaid parking citations," the bill reads. But the Metro Police Department didn't ask for the power to boot and doesn't plan on doing it anytime soon, a spokesman said Friday. "We will closely review the ordinance, but at this moment we do not have any immediate plans to implement a booting process," Don Aaron said. Aaron said police typically tow any vehicle that's blocking traffic or interfering with the public right of way. Bill would prohibit private use The other bill, which could be approved June 2, would take boots out of the hands of any private individual or company other than a vehicle's lien holder. Councilman Jerry Maynard said private use of the devices is wrong. "That's way too much authority to give a private citizen," he said. "It's literally taking possession of someone's private property." Councilman Michael Craddock said it might be possible to give some booting power back to the private sector at some point. "It's not regulated right now," said Craddock, the bill's lead sponsor. "We don't have the resources to regulate it. We will sit down and see if we can make the regulation pay for itself."

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