DeKalb may join counties' ban on booting vehicles
DeKalb County commis- sioners are considering banning the practice of boot- ing vehicles for parking violations.
If they do so, the county will join Clayton, Gwinnett and Cobb, which already have put an end to booting.
DeKalb commissioners initially discussed setting a maximum fee that can be charged to remove boots, like Atlanta and the city of Decatur. The original DeKalb proposal set a maximum $75 fee and required signs at locations where booting can occur.
But at a recent commit- tee meeting, some commis- sioners questioned whether booting has a place at all.
“I don’t really see a crucial need in unincorporated DeKalb,” Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson said, “because you have towing.” plaint officer paperwork Towing from or business a requires before law enforcement owner a car a com- and can be commissioners carted away. With said, towing, there’s accountability. But when a car is booted, drivers are too often unaware they’ve broken the rules until they return to find an immobili- zation devices on a tire, the commissioners said. That leads to anger and resentment and harms businesses if they become known as locations where booting is likely to occur, Commissioner Jeff Rader said. Booting companies and parking lot owners often set enforcement policy without the input of shops or restaurants nearby, he added. Sometimes, cars are immobilize when driv- ers enter a business that isn’t included in the parking agreement.
“Then all of the customers of those businesses there become vulnerable to getting booted if they walk off the property,” Rader said. “That’s to the disadvantage of the business that is there.”
The board was expected to vote this week on the booting regulation ordinance. After Tuesday’s discussion, mem- bers of the Employee Relations and Public Safety Com- mittee asked Interim County Attorney Viviane Ernstes to draft a substitute proposal that bans booting outright.
Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett’s ordinances will likely serve as templates. All have similar language that describe booting as a bad public policy.
“Cobb County finds that the immobilization (booting) of vehicles by private companies leads to unnecessary anger, conflict, a drain on public safety resources better spent elsewhere, and does not resolve the issue of improper use of a parking space,” its ordinance reads. “The county has determined vehicle immobilization ser- vices to be unnecessary and not in the best interests of the ing While at county.” cars Cobb parked allows at unpaid bootmeters, Clayton and Gwin- nett have no exceptions. Penalties for a company placing a boot include fines of up to $1,000 and, in Clayton and Cobb, up to six months in jail. Clayton also allows property owners who facilitate booting to be punished.
Atlanta is also considering a ban on booting, but oppo- sition from companies that install these devices slowed the legislative process down.
In Georgia, regulation of booting has been left up to cities and counties. An effort to create a state law that would have allowed booting in all places where it wasn’t specifically prohib- ited failed during this year’s General Assembly session. That initiative was backed by a booting company. A group of lawyers in 2017 filed a series of lawsuits on behalf of Georgia drivers whose cars were booted in jurisdictions like DeKalb, where no laws are on the books allowing the practice by booting companies. They argue that, without an ordinance in place, booting is illegal in all cases. Those lawsuits are pending in courts across the state. Among the cases cited are drivers who were charged $650 each to have boots removed from vehicles parked on private property in the Conley and Wesley Chapel areas of DeKalb.