Several residents in the Shirley Avenue are up in arms this week after what they are terming a rude and unannounced raid Feb. 25 on their neighborhood by City-contracted tow companies that were asked by Police officials to shovel out buried cars and tow them away.
Some residents said they were ordered to pay as much as $475 to $500 cash to get their vehicles back.
“They targeted a low-income neighborhood where residents don’t speak a lot of English,” said Anne Steinman of Thornton Street. “There was absolutely no warning. We had a series of four of five snowstorms and then without giving warning, they pick one day – after canvassing the neighborhood mind you – to tow cars…I’m not upset this was done; I’m upset there was no notification. It was really, mostly, how they did it. People didn’t know what was going on. I tried to find out and they threatened to have my friend and I arrested for interfering with a police operation.
“We were just trying to find out,” she continued. “The tow truck drivers were just very, very rude and rude is putting it mildly. The poor people just stood out there and didn’t know what was happening. This army of tow trucks just raided the street with the people driving them just screaming at individuals and yelling at my neighbors. People were upset and distraught. It didn’t have to happen.”
She said the City did not use its telephone warning system and only some crude signs. She contended that better warnings went out after the efforts on Thornton Street went, in her view, so awry.
The City and the Police Department have a far different view of the situation, however.
Police said they simply were trying to get ready to clean the mounds of snow from the streets. In order to do that, they needed to get rid of the cars that had not been moved since before the first blizzard in late January. In many cases, some of the cars had four feet of snow on them.
In all the City added the following snow removal fees to the towing.
- $100 to dig out a vehicle with a bobcat tractor
- $90 for the tow truck and man to assist
- $30 for the City’s fee
- $5 for a fuel surcharge
Residents contended that if they didn’t have cash on the spot to pay the $225 fee, the vehicle was towed off-site to another location, which is what Steinman said elevated the fees up to nearly $500.
Police officials don’t agree with that summation, though.
This is not something new to the city; the only difference is this year there are more vehicles than normal,” said Police Sgt. Chris Giannino. “The vehicles targeted for removal are from a list of complaints from city residents, along with police officers working the neighborhoods. These vehicles have not moved in over four weeks and are encased in snow and ice. The plates on most of them could not be read and required a Bobcat tractor to access them, therefore the practice of ‘red tagging’ them was not possible…I talked to several neighbors during the process and they seemed to have a positive response. The residents that were home and vehicles were towed were not very happy. They contacted their ward councilor and at his request the operation was moved to another area of the city.”
Giannino said it was also a public safety issue as well.
“The police have no idea if there are people in these vehicles,” he said. “Imagine waiting until spring only to find a body in one of these vehicles during April street sweeping.”
He added that the majority of the vehicle towed were not registered to the street they were towed from or even registered within Revere. He also said there were a few vehicles towed from in front of their registered home and the owners were home, but came out after the snow removal process and the tow trucks were on scene.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said the operation was nothing new to the City and something that has been done in prior administrations to move vehicles that, for all intents and purposes, have been abandoned under snow.
“We have posted warnings along with CodeRed alert phone calls, emails, and text messages to provide the mandatory notice to people that have kept their cars sitting underneath 80 inches of snow,” said Mayor Rizzo. “It is a public safety hazard and diminishes our ability to clean up as much snow as we might otherwise be able to. In addition, this is not a policy that has just been implemented for the first time; it has been implemented before and in prior administrations.”
Revere Police Lt. Jeff Graff and Lt. Amy O’Hara said it was an operation initiated by the police to clear the streets. Without moving cars that are buried under many feet of snow, there would be no way to clear the narrow side streets.
“The law says 72 hours,” said Graff. “If you don’t move a vehicle, it’s considered abandoned and going to be towed whether we call or not. No one is being targeted at all. It’s just trying to clear the streets. We can’t leave all the buried cars there if we’re clearing the streets…It’s a matter of public safety too. What if there is a fire and they can’t get through the street?”
Graff said there were temporary warning signs posted that indicated that towing was going to take place if vehicles were not dug out.
Steinman said the City simply wasn’t fair. “It was unfair and they took up an obsolete law not enforced in a long time,” she said. “This has never happened before. I think people who were charged these fees down here should be refunded.” Councillor Ira Novoselsky is expected to bring the matter before the City Council at the next meeting on March 9 for further discussion. Seth Daniel can be reached at [email protected]