Towing
Mark Dent/Billy Penn and Chris Norman/Facebook

South Philly hustle: Towing scheme at Broad and Washington?

The company, George Smith Towing, Inc., has been embroiled in 24 lawsuits since 2010.

Updated 10:05 a.m.

Chris Norman promises he’s not the type of person who just hangs by his window, spying on the neighborhood. But for what he claims is an unfair towing scheme happening outside, he can’t help but notice.

“Every day,” he said, “I see it happen.”

Norman captured on video the scene of a tow in front of an empty lot near Broad and Washington Streets. Two white pickup trucks are parked in front of a vacant lot with a Mercedes in between. The truck in front of the Mercedes moves and a tow truck swoops in to tow the Mercedes. Five minutes later, the same white pickup is back, in the same spot.

There is no clear sign that parking is not allowed in this location. The only one is situated about 25 feet away from the road behind a fence in the vacant lot. It warns that cars illegally parked will be towed by George Smith Inc. for a fee of $175 and $25 per day storage. The sign is in a bucket, and both Norman, as well as a woman who has been towed from the spot, claim the sign is knocked down by the towing company and placed back up when it makes its tows.

Norman posted the video Monday, and it has at least 100,000 views and counting. He said he’s seen these tows happen since he moved into the neighborhood about six months ago and that management at his apartment complex, Marine Club Condos, has warned residents of the towing scheme.

Police told Billy Penn this morning the Major Crimes Unit will be investigating the matter.

A call to George Smith Towing, located at South 61st Street, went unanswered. Court records show the company has been involved in 24 civil suits — some as the plaintiff, some as the defendant — since 2010 and dozens more dating back to the 1990s.

A Better Business Bureau check of the company reveals it is not accredited and has an F rating. Twenty-one complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau against George Smith Towing in the last three years. It also has several negative Yelp reviews, including some from users complaining about what appears to be the same tow scheme as Norman described.

Katy Otto told 6ABC last night her car was towed from the Broad and Washington location even though when she parked there the sign was not visible.

“There were other cars parked there,” she said. “There was no sign in the lot – well, it was knocked down as the picture shows. There was no indication that where I was parking was illegal. This just strikes me as very dishonest.”

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