'Dude, where's my car?'

June 8, 2009 4:26:00 PM PDT
Finding out your vehicle was towed is frustrating enough. Then comes the daunting task of tracking it down. Fed up drivers are demanding changes, and now the city and the Houston Police Department are looking at ways to make the whole process a bit more convenient.Two cab drivers would like to be driving customers around, instead of one driving the other to the car impound lot.

"My laptop is in the car, my family history, everything in the laptop, two video recorders in there," explained cab driver Origin Amugwon.

Their frustration with tow trucks and impound lots are not unusual, and it's the main reason why the Houston Police Department wants to revamp the entire towing system.

"Customer service is the primary reason we are doing this," explained HPD Captain Bill Stanley. "It's very difficult now with our current system to find out if your car has been towed. It's very difficult for the tow operators to call in to us and tell us they towed a car."

Captain Stanley told city council members that HPD wants to spend $135,000 this fiscal year to implement a computer based towing system. It would allow car owners to locate their towed cars via the internet or by phone. HPD admits the current system just isn't working.

"We're getting about 585 calls per day either to report a tow or trying to find out where their car is," Captain Stanley said. "It just jams our lines and we can't keep up with it."

If put in place, the system would also force tow operators to instantly report every car towed. That should reduce the amount of time cars are impounded, helping owners like these cab drivers who are forking over $350 just to get a car back.

"They want exact change," said cab driver Bisong Bisong. "They make it difficult for you. I mean it's pathetic."

The city also wants to remind people that every impound lot has to accept at least two forms of payment -- either cash and check, or credit card. As for this particular towing contract, if approved, the five year cost could be more than $1 million. City council is slated to vote on the topic in a few weeks.

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