Ottawa police play favourites at crash sites, towers say

Ottawa, Ontario — March 19, 2015 — Local tow truck drivers are taking issue with Ottawa police practices, citing collision site favourtism and unfair ticketing.

Sharkey’s Towing and Road Service operator, Edwin Weber, told 580 CFRA News Talk Radio that the force’s crackdown on illegal “collision chasers” — towers seeking out crashes and competing to be first on the scene — by staging accidents and handing out fines, isn’t the answer. He adds that police tend to unfairly assign towing jobs to contracted companies, when more often than not, the choice should be left to the driver.

Weber, who was fined $175 last week when he says he stumbled upon a nearby collision, explains that unless a crash is connected to a crime, such as impaired driving or stunt racing, it’s up to the owner of the vehicle who handles the tow.

Sgt. John Kiss, who manages the Ottawa Police Impounded Vehicles Unit, told Metro News that under the chief’s orders, as of 2012, officers cannot recommend, or decide which company is assigned to towing a vehicle if the owner is able to make the call themselves.

“If a towing company comes to us and complains that an officer was clearly favouring another towing company over them, then we would tell them to file a complaint about the police officer’s conduct,” Kiss told Metro. “But they’re not coming to us.”

Kiss adds that the force’s ticketing tactic to cut down on towers in violation of the city bylaw — prohibiting tow trucks from parking or offering their services within 100 metres of a collision — was put in place last fall, necessitated by towers’ aggressive, competitive behaviour.

In a separate interview with CFRA, Kiss said he’d like to see the $175 fine given to “collision chasers” increased.

While agreeing that “tow truck wars” can be dangerous, Weber says that setting up fake collisions could serve to exacerbate the problem.

“Number one, it’s entrapment . . . number two, I don’t think it’s smart because what they do is they’re enticing tow trucks to start racing through the city,” he said in the report. “If they’re looking to be safe, then why would you have — on purpose — guys racing through the city?”

City police currently hold contracts with Ottawa Metro Towing & Recovery and Gervais Towing & Recovery. The contracts run for a duration of three years, and can be renewed for another two. The next renewal date is in April.

Nineteen tow truck drivers have been fined since the start of the year.

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