DeKalb may join coun­ties' ban on boot­ing ve­hi­cles

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - COUNTY BY COUNTY - By Tia Mitchell tia.mitchell@ajc.com

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.

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