The city towing board has shut down one of Baltimore's largest towing companies for 45 days after finding it allowed unlicensed towers to remove more than 200 vehicles from private properties.
The board suspended the trespass towing license of Auto Barn Inc. of West Baltimore in mid-September, according a copy of the board's ruling released Tuesday. The suspension is to continue until Nov. 1, for a total of 45 days. The board ordered Auto Barn to issue reimbursements to those illegally towed.
"The Board ... determined that overwhelming evidence has been presented to establish that Auto Barn has continued to knowingly and blatantly disregard Trespass Towing Rules and Regulations ... since at least August 31, 2013," board chairman Paul Tolle wrote in the board's decision. "The Board has determined Auto Barn's wanton recklessness has placed the City of Baltimore, its residents, workers, and visitors, as well as their vehicles and personal property at substantial risk."
Representatives from the Auto Barn did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the board's decision, Auto Barn employed a tower who had been denied a towing license in April, but went on to make about 200 unauthorized tows. The company also allowed another driver, the son of an Auto Barn manager, to make 13 unauthorized tows without a license, and a third man to make 21 illegal tows in 2013, the board said.
Auto Barn has been placed on probation until 2017. The company must issue letters about the reimbursements to those illegally towed by Dec. 10, the board said. Such tows typically cost hundreds of dollars.
City Councilman Robert Curran, who sits on the towing board, said he asked for a lighter penalty for the Auto Barn, but was outvoted.
"The board really wanted to send a message," he said. "I felt bad for them, but you've got to be towing by the rules."