PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re called chasers — tow truck drivers who race to the scene of accidents. It’s clearly documented by one of them tearing through the streets on the North Side in a video posted to YouTube.
When they get there, they try to convince the traumatize accident victim to turn over their car.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
“Someone comes along and says, ‘Don’t worry about it, sir, ma’am, I’ll take care of your car.’ Next thing you know, it’s 45 minutes away, it’s not open nights or weekends, they want cash only,” says Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “What is this $525 storage?”
Walter Werkmeister: “Just for storage, yes.”
After our initial report, we continued to field complaints about the chasers.
Werkmeister got hit on Arlington Avenue two weeks ago and Tag Towing and Collision charged him $900 towing and storage just to get it back.
“I’m very upset,” he said. “I had to borrow the money off my sister. I had to borrow a couple dollars off somebody else.”
The chasers have been at it for years, and state Rep. Dom Costa is proposing statewide legislation to rein in them in.
“They’re a danger to themselves and other people, and they’re ripping people off, and that’s got to stop,” he says.
But as our report pointed out — the city has never enforced its own ordinance to license and regulate them.READ MORE: Ohio River Boulevard Reopens Following Crash
“Your report highlighted some issues that we were not aware of in the Public Safety Department. So, the Public Safety director is very grateful for your report,” said Sonya Toler, the department’s spokesperson.
The Peduto administration has been in office for a year, and now says it will go back and look at 2010 ordinance to see what can be done.
“We didn’t know that ordinance existed prior to your report. And we’re trying to see how we can reinforce that ordinance, and most importantly, making sure that the public is no longer being taken advantage of by these unscrupulous business practices,” said Toler.
In the meantime, KDKA’s Andy Sheehan went to Tag Towing in West Mifflin to see about the handling of Werkmeister’s car, but a worker there wasn’t happy to talk.
Sheehan: “You have to pay this storage? Seventy-five dollars a day? Don’t you think that’s a little outrageous?”
Worker: “No, it’s not outrageous. I think it’s outrageous you guy are here. Get the [expletive] off the property.”
KDKA later spoke with the owner on the phone who refused to be interviewed on camera. He called the storage fees fair and said he had provided Werkmeister a valuable service.
But while we were there, one man was having his truck towed away from Tag Towing after paying them more than $500 for towing and storage, and refusing their offer to fix his broken fuel pump for another $2,000.
“Crooks, that’s what I call them, crooks,” he said. “You know, I was down and out. They could have helped me out as a fellow man, but that’s just gone today in America, unfortunately.”MORE NEWS: Sen. Bob Casey To Introduce Two Police Reform Bills