Several Austin based towing company owners and their drivers intentionally scammed hundreds of motorists over the years, especially on weekend nights who parked on East 5th Street, east of Interstate 35. Nobody in their right mind would think their vehicle would be towed for parking on the side of a street street, but as history shows, most upset motorists don't know the laws the towing companies have to follow. Even a test question ask if the towing from a public right of way is legal.
According to Lee Austin, with the City of Austin Transportation Department; this section of East 5th Street vehicles are being towed is city right of way reserved for the Satillo Station Plaza master plan. According to Lee Austin, the city wants drivers to park in these areas, not be towed.
During SXSW, a black tow truck bearing the name Steel Towing (since changed company ownership) was observed towing vehicles parked in the street on East 5th behind barricades, near Waller Street. An unidentified APD officer manned the barricade and stopped traffic so the Steel driver could tow the vehicle away, unaware the vehicle is being towed without authorization (stolen).
During the Texas Relays weekend, Albert's towed every vehicle parked in the 1300 block of East 5th street adjacent to TOPS, a used office furniture supplier, every vehicle towed was stolen, as the City of Austin, per Lee Austin never gave anybody other than APD the right to have vehicles towed from the right of way. APD says they didn't tow any vehicles in this area.
APD has the list of vehicles towed from the East 5th Street area, but due to budget constraints, will not pursue an investigation, which includes notifying the vehicle owners to interview them about rather they gave the towing company permission to tow their vehicle, then file the criminal charge, as in the case involving Central Towing owner Donald Creamer. This type of investigation would require several hundred hours of research, it can be accomplished, but someone within city government is being pressured to leave it alone.
In my opinion, there is major difference between the SXSW 2009 Towing Scam versus the East 5th Towing Scam, the shear number of victims who have no idea they were taken advantage of.
Only until consumers take advantage of their rights afforded them when scammed by a towing company, will wrecker drivers think twice about stealing your vehicle for financial gain.