Parking Police Keep Drivers on Their Tows

It doesn't just seem like city tow trucks are out to get you. They really are.

Towing has always been a threat, but reports indicate the practice is becoming more commonplace as the city scrambles for cash – and quotas are now allegedly part of the equation.

NYPD tow-truck drivers are carrying away vehicles faster than ever, thanks to new rules requiring them to bring in at least four cars per shift or else, according to a published report. The NYPD, however, says that report is completely bogus.

"You have to get your number. That's it. If you don't get that number, you know that when you roll into the pound, the bosses will be all over you," a longtime operator told The New York Post.

Don't bring in the requisite number of vehicles? Prepare to face loss of overtime or be bumped to the graveyard shift (good luck hauling in your quota on those hours) or even be forced to wait in agony while your employers take forever to approve your vacation requests, according to the Post.

In the past, tow-truck operators may have let wayward parkers off the hook – maybe they were in a good mood or didn't see the infraction. Not anymore.

And traffic agents aren't looking the other way either. As the number of parking summonses has gone up, so have traffic enforcement agents' salaries.

More than 700 agents got a 20 percent boost in wages from overtime last year; some managed a 50 percent jump and one worker even doubled his income, according to The New York Times.

All together, the city shelled out $13 million in overtime in addition to the $68 million in regular wages to its agents. But the investment is paying off big time. Ticket agents brought in nearly $580 million for the city last year, up from $366.6 million seven years ago, according to the Times.

Tow-truck operators want to reap the fruits of overtime, too. Desperate to meet their quotas, drivers are towing cars they let off easy in the past. The new mandate has given renewed weight to the adage: Better you than me.

"If it's a judgment call, we'll frequently go against the driver for that reason," a source told the Post. "It's screw them or screw me. Either way, someone's getting screwed."

The whole idea of towing quotas is just off, NYPD spokesman Inspector Ed Mullens told the Post. Mullens also said the penalties that drivers described to the paper were bogus.

Nearly 70,000 cars have been towed so far this year. If NYPD towers keep up the pace, the city would impound 138,838 vehicles by the end of the year, reports the Post.

The number of impounded vehicles has been increasing substantially year after year. Nearly 6 percent more cars got towed in 2007 compared with 2006 – and 13 percent more got towed between 2007 and 2008.

Needless to say, drivers aren't thrilled about the concept of a four-car quota. In fact, they're downright angry. 

"This is a racket! This is a racket!" exclaimed Bronx resident Josephine Hernandez as she fought to get her car out of the impound lot yesterday. "They're towing everyone."

There may be more to cutting overtime than failure to meet quotas, however. The problem with depending on it is that it "becomes perceived as part of the salary," Citizens Budget Commission president Carol Kellerman told the Times.

“It can turn into a de facto raise,” she said. “Then you are not really disclosing the true salary of the job. You’re not really telling the public what work force is needed to do the job and what it is being paid.”

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