MEMPHIS, TN - In just 20 days, more than 150 cars have been towed in downtown Memphis. The city's boot and tow program began two weeks ago and it's already generating big cash, forcing illegal parkers to pay up.
The largest number of cars towed by the city in one year was 240. By the end of February 2012, the city could break that record.
It's hard to avoid downtown Memphis, even harder to find a free parking spot. For years drivers have made their own "free" parking, but times have changed. Now, alleys and fire lanes are all off limits, and the city's sending a clear message.
City Clerk Thomas Long said, "If you parked illegally downtown, you're going to get towed. In the past police would just cite you, now they tow you; if you owe more than $500 they tow you on the spot."
Towing began Jan. 10th and 150 drivers have already been caught. In order to get their cars back, they've had to pay. So far it's resulted in more than $26,000 in the city's pocket. "There was no incentive for them to pay the parking ticket," Long said, "all they had to do was hide the car but now there's incentive to pay."
Long expects to bring in about $50,000 each month. Since the city's moving full speed ahead, here's a breakdown of the new rules:
- Drivers only have 15 days to contest a ticket.
- With three unpaid parking tickets, the car gets booted.
- More than three or $500 in unpaid tickets, it gets towed.
- All money owed to the city has to be paid before the car is released.
Long said, "Once people realize they can't park anywhere they want to, they'll start parking correctly. They realize they have a ticket, they'll pay it; the behavior is going to change."
Parking fines will also go from $21 to $81 if a ticket goes unpaid for 90 days.