By Gerhard Schneibel
Until recently, anyone whose car was towed in Sandy Springs had to contact the police, obtain a release and go to Alpharetta to A Tow Inc.’s lot there.
Now that process is less complicated. Officers fill out electronic reports that become available at ga.towedcar.com, a database searchable by license plate or vehicle identification number. A Tow can use the same database to provide release paperwork 24 hours a day.
Sandy Springs police Lt. Keith Zgonc said the new system makes reclaiming a towed car “a little more convenient for really everybody involved.”
“They can go straight to A Tow to get their car, and we can do it all over the computer. Really, it saves the public time,” he said.
Paige Porter, the CEO of A Tow, said the company tows an average of six cars a day from Sandy Springs. Often those cars are towed after a driver is arrested for lacking insurance or current registration or for being under the influence.
The database is part of a statewide project to standardize towing procedures, Porter said. The Sandy Springs and Georgia Tech police departments are the first to participate.
“It’s a pretty expansive thing when you’re looking at the whole picture,” she said. “With this process we’re trying to uniform and streamline everything.”
A Tow tows cars only for the city and for private property owners who have a contract with them. Because Sandy Springs has little on-street parking, most illegally parked cars are towed from privately owned parking lots by contractors that don’t currently participate in the database.
Cars that are abandoned in Sandy Springs are impounded at A Tow’s lot in Alpharetta, where they eventually are auctioned. The proceeds sit in the state’s general fund for a year, then are split between the state and Sandy Springs, less A Tow’s fees. If the car doesn’t sell for a high enough price to cover the fees, A Tow loses money.
“We’ve tried for years to get from the state legislature our little piece of the pie,” Porter said.
Zgonc said the Police Department occasionally seizes cars after drug arrests and has so far been able to make use of them.
“We haven’t done that many,” he said. “We may drive it; use it as an undercover vehicle, something like that.”