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Rogue tow trucks face Council’s crackdown

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Philadelphia City Council has passed a bill designed to crack down on towers that scoop cars from private lots and driveways and charge nearly $200 to get them back.

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Council’s bill is intended to help people like Angela Mebane, who was setting out for a shopping trip with her kids on April 1st.

“So immediately they came running back into the house,” says Mebane, “and said, ‘mommy, the car is gone.’”

The 2010 Kia sedan was a rental – Mebane’s car was in the repair shop – and it was towed from the lot of her Germantown apartment building, where Manton Towing has a contract to tow illegal parkers.

“This Manton company, it comes through here regularly – all the time,” says Mebane. “And they just see a car and jump to the conclusion that it’s parked illegal, tow it out. They don’t talk to the manager, they don’t talk to security, they don’t talk to anybody.”

Mebane said she had a permit from the apartment building on her dash, but after she and her kids walked more than a mile to the Manton lot, the company wouldn’t release her car until she came up with $189 in cash.

Councilman Jim Kenney says he’s sick of stories like these.

Kenney’s bill will prohibit a tower from removing a vehicle from a private lot until he’s summoned by the police or Parking Authority, and after the PPD or PPA issues a ticket.

Kenney says it’s time to crack down on predatory towers.

“It all winds up being a judgment call on the tow truck operator, whose incentive is to take the car,” says Kenney. “So they’ll find any reason to take the car. The reason we want the legislation is that we want some arbitrator of fact, either a police officer or a Parking Authority agent or enforcement officer to say ‘yes, the car is illegally parked. Yes, here is the ticket. You can tow it.’”

Manton towing didn’t respond to calls for comment, but one of the city’s best-known towers is proud to stand up for his trade: Lew Blum.

That’s right, Lew Blum – the name you’ve seen on hundreds of ‘don’t you dare park here’ signs.

Blum is a real guy, and he grew up in the business. His father and grandfather were towers. He hooked his first car when he was 16. His uncle is George Smith, of George Smith towing. Blum took me for a ride in his truck to talk about the Council bill, and the towing business.

Blum’s name is all over signs in Philadelphia, and he must be one of the most hated men in the city.

“It works two ways,” says Blum. “The people I tow hate me, but the property owners love me.”

Blum says his big and bold signs, required by law, keep private lots and driveways clear. But what Blum really wants you to know is that his trucks don’t just cruise the city checking lots and driveways for a car to hook. He insists he never, ever tows a car unless the property owner or manager requests it.

No call, no tow.

After a half an hour, Blum responds to a call about a White Crown Victoria that’s been sitting a half an hour in the lot of a Sunoco mini-mart at 22nd and Walnut. Blum says people try to use the lot as a free Center City parking space.

As the Crown Vic gets the hook, the store clerk, whose badge reads Turk, confirms he called Blum for a tow.

“The only way that Lew Blum can come and tow a car, is if we call him,” says Turk. “Now if they ride past, we’ll call them over, and they’ll tow them. That’s it.”

There’s no central registry of towing complaints in Philadelphia, so it’s hard to judge Blum’s claim that towers never use the hook unless they get a call from a property owner.

Kenney is skeptical, and says Council has acted to impose some standards on rogue towers

“This about a half a dozen to seven companies that just totally are pirates out there sailing the seas off the city street trying to steal somebody’s car,” says Kenney.

Kenney acknowledges that tow victims do get their cars back, but says too many get ripped off.  He acknowledges his bill might delay some legitimate tows, and will require illegal parkers to pay a ticket in addition to towing charges. But Kenney says it’s time to clean up the business.

Mayor Nutter is expected to sign the bill.


  • Jaydee says:

    Manton sounds like a typical scumbag. Obviously this feral animal thinks she is above the law! Hopefully she will run into an armed driver who will not take any of her crap! Manton should be put out of business as soon as possible. Scum like Manton are hurting Philly businesses and tourism. It’s bad enough with the PPA and now decent people have to put up with lawless scum like Manton and their thugs.

  • Manton Towing & Transport says:

    One things for certain……. you all are mad! I’m not! This young black man that ya’ll (People that got towed, Councilman Jim Kenney, L&I, Philadelphia Police or just the haters like rps transport) all hate came in and did what I needed to do. Whether you think it’s right or wrong does not matter to me!! You’ll be talking smack about me and I’ll still be laughing at you all……. all the way to the bank! Daddy made enough and walked away with enough to put 3 dozen people through Harvard and I’m still on a grind! Nothing stops people! It’s not over when none of you say its over! I serve a higher power and the last direct order I recieved was to step back brush myself off and pick business back up right where I left off!

  • Marshal says:

    Call me down! Property owners use them so they don’t have to worry about them. There should be adequate free parking in this city. They don’t so they force you to pay.

  • Marshal says:

    Lew Blum is a liar. I live in Northern Liberties and see the tow companies going through the lots all day and night looking for cars to tow. There is not adequate signage and it’s almost purposely confusing. Predatory. I parked in the fire lane of my building to take in a few groceries and they tried to tow me even when I had a parking permit an they changed the loading zone that day! The security guard had to fend them off twice while trying to

  • rps transport says:

    Byron Tarlton of Manton towing has been ripping off philly for way too long he is a theif and should not be in bus check public records overcharge car crushing many complaints all over the news very bad person he should be in jail not out stealing cars philly is a very corrupt city and manton towing is allowed to profit by stealing from the people

  • GOD'S CHILD says:

    Listen screw this city, i guess yall would rather we be out here in ski masks, or robbing banks! This is why this city sucks! Legal buisness, everyone is against it, all because the city wants a piece. That’s the real! Nutter and the coucilman, tell them why you mad, were your worst nightmare, young,black and paid! We’ll be done before you shut it down, on to the next hustle, and it won’t be in Philadephia

  • Anna says:

    I live in Center City and I hate when people block my driveway. Waiting on the police or the PPA to ticket vehicles before we can get them towed is going to be a nightmare. I have already spoken to numerous residence in my community whom have already decided to put their homes on the market and leave the city for a number of things in which this is like the straw that broke the camels back. People are sick of theis city, these city regulations and the laws that they come up with that are truly stupid, but hey its Philadelphia!

  • Keith says:

    If they park on my property, I wont be responsible for the end result of how their car turns out! Im not waiting on no ticket. If you cant read the signs, shame on you and shame on your car windows and tires!

  • Sorry I did not call back. I’ve been too busy putting “Plan B” in order so this city does not stop me from missing revenue with this new proposed law! The stories can go back and fourth. As Lew said in the article, the people hate us, but the property owners love us! Councilman Jim Kenneny is building his entire case from one side….. The people! He has not taken one minute to find out how property owners and managers feel about this. How they are tired of having limited parking but it continues to be abused by violators! He did not even take a minute to meet with the towers! Maybe when the day comes that someone parks in his space or blocks a loved one in such as his mother or wife in the heat of a possible emergency and he can’t do nothing about it until a ticket is placed on the car, he’ll understand our position! What part of PRIVATE PROPERTY does not register in these peoples brains? Am I missing something? Now we have to wait for the police to come with a ticket? The same Police Dept we waited 6 hours for yesterday when a lady hopped my impound fence and locked herself in her car! Truthfully, I am tired of this whole ordeal! If it’s not one thing it’s another. This whole twist is simply to try to put us out of business! Point Blank! I’ve remained diversified in business for quite some time. If you think this camp is going under, you’ve got another thing coming! Noboby or Nothing in this city or no other city is going to stop me from providing for my family!

    • Donna says:

      Maybe people wouldn’t be so upset if when the towers realize that the car wasn’t parked ilegally they returned the car and didn’t continue to charge for the tow. hence the above story if her car is in the shop and her rental doesn’t have a tag and she proves that it was her car and it’s legal for her to park there, why was she stilled charged 189.00? So it’s suffice to say that 90% of towers are rip off artist

    • Pat says:

      Towing a clearly labeled rental car could have been a genuine error, but charging the wronged party $189 for your error was stealing. She was penalized for parking legally. If you ‘provide for your family’ through theft you must reasonably expect negative responses. Consumer protection laws in Pennsylvania exist to penalize YOU for business practices like this, and the actual tow driver can be arrested for car theft also. Admittedly, the arrest would be a less-than-automatic because the crime would be viewed as minor but it could be accomplished.

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