Tuesday morning the Orange County Board of Commissioners received a briefing on the measures being taken to prevent predatory towing in the region. A year ago, the commission approved ordinances for vehicle towing in response to a public concern over the growth of trespass towing activity.

The public complaints that prompted the changes included towing rules that were unclear, vehicles being towed illegally, and an unpleasant process for retrieving towed vehicles.

Some changes made to the ordinance involved posting clear and visible signs, providing insurance for storing  vehicles and cargo, and prohibiting using “spotters” often paid to call tow trucks to notify them of violators. Towing lots themselves were also made to properly light and fence their facilities, and to accept credit/debit cards for payments.

The new ordinances have resulted in an overall drop in the number of vehicles towed from residential, commercial, and student housing areas. The change process has included property managers, towing companies and homeowners associations.

The main challenge was stopping the practice of middle-of-the-night “roaming” in search of vehicles violating parking rules. New ordinances require property management authorization for towing. Those managers are off the premises during early morning hours, which keeps tow-truck drivers from taking vehicles.

Those drivers would like a system allowing them to tag a violating vehicle with a slip, and allow property owners to sign off on the tow for the next available time the driver is in the area.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs told reporters after the briefing she felt positive about the county’s direction  after implementing the new rules.

She said, though, the clarity of the regulations could be further examined: “The question for us is ‘is this the best we can do? or do we need to do any fine tuning?’ Let’s look at it. If it’s not clear let’s take a look at it.”

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