WUSA9 Hidden Camera Investigation Sparks New Warning Signs In Downtown Silver Spring

7:23 AM, Apr 27, 2013   |    comments
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SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- Downtown Silver Spring officials say they suspended towing and initiated a still evolving signage change the moment a WUSA9 hidden camera investigation exposed an illegal towing operation there.

If you've been towed from a Downtown Silver Spring meter, contact Investigative Reporter Russ Ptacek by WUSA9 email, on Twitter or Facebook.

Near the intersection of Georgia Ave. and Colesville Rd. on a private road, the shopping center had been towing cars parked at private parking meters, but signs weren't large enough or clear enough to comply with county and Maryland regulations.

View a photo gallery of our undercover towing investigation by clicking here.

Drivers, who expected a parking ticket at the worst, were shocked to find their cars towed and missing when they returned from shopping.

Now Downtown Silver Spring has larger signs and stickers warning of towing on each meter, but there is still a possibility it is not in compliance according to Montgomery County.

"It's pretty close to in compliance," said Montgomery County Consumer Affairs Director Eric Friedman. "It's better than what it was - we can probably still make that sign slightly better."

Friedman said a judge would ultimately have to decide whether the current changes are enough to make towing there legal.

"We thought we had the correct signage," said property manager Daniel Figueroa. "We obviously didn't. The meters all say one hour parking. We had a few signs, albeit it not enough."

Figueroa said they have suspended towing until Montgomery County tells them their signs are in compliance.

Our investigation identified about 50 victims in one three month period alone.

WUSA9 hidden cameras recorded two G&G tow trucks hook up cars in the lot.

We were able to intervene on the second one and prevent the tow.

That's when Downtown Silver Spring suspended all towing and began installing new, larger tow warning signs.

They also attached small towing warnings to each meter.

Although the meters had small stickers saying "one hour parking," there had been no warning on the meters about towing and they accepted enough quarters to credit drivers with more than six hours of parking.

Downtown Silver Springs officials say although they enforced a one hour limit, they gave customers grace periods, and didn't tow if time still showed on the meter.

Our surveillance crew recorded one tow truck driver chalking tires and another tow truck driver returning a little over two hours later to tow.

G&G Towing officials haven't returned our calls for comment and threatened to press trespassing charges against us when we went to their offices.

Downtown Silver Spring has agreed to refund towing charges to customers towed from  their private meters.

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