Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Scam in Montrose

Montrose is one of Houston's oldest neighborhoods. It has a lot of "atmosphere" and is the center of the gay community. Museums, parks and resale shops abound. Some might call it eclectic. It also has a growing population of drug-crazed and homeless teenagers and 20-somethings. Covenant House and Interfaith Ministries cater to, and bring in, these homeless kids to feed them and provide free medical services. So the kids "hang-out" and roam the surrounding streets in gangs all day and night. I live smack-dab in the middle of all this.

My name is Friday. I'm a citizen. We're seeing a new scam and I'm gonna tell.

Starbuck's is around the corner from my townhouse. It's located in a small strip-center with 5 other businesses and they all share a common car park. The management company that operates this car park contracts to Z Wrecker Company to tow unauthorized vehicles, 24/7. The individual drivers of the towing company have discretion to decide if a car is legally parked or not. That is where the insanity begins. Starbuck's

Myself and fellow townhouse owners park in an off-street covered parking area, secured by a remote-controlled security gate. We keep our little remote "clickers" on key rings or in our respective cars. Last Wednesday night, in the middle of the night, my next-door neighbor's car was stolen - from the secure parking area! It was duly reported to the police on Thursday but there's little they can do. blah blah blah Friday morning, my neighbor received a call from the City of Houston Impound Yard. They had her car and told her it would cost $230 to retrieve it. It had been towed there from Starbuck's. Towed there by Z Wrecker Company.

Here's the scam (not too difficult to figure out). The wrecker drivers are stealing cars and/or paying homeless kids a $20 spot (can you buy crack for $20 a hit?) to do the deed for them. The drivers possess "universal remotes" that can open any remote gate. The stolen cars are then driven to Starbuck's parking area and towed from there. Unfrickenbelievable. Now it's a "legal" tow.

The driver gets $160 for the tow; the impound yard gets $35/day for storage. From that $160 I suspect the driver pays a few dollars to the kid to steal the car and maybe the Starbuck's manager as well. Everybody makes money. Except, of course, for the honest citizen who pays for it.

Simple plan. No witnesses. Impossible to prove. The police look the other way. They can't be bothered.

So now we concerned citizens are shelling out $2000 for a video security system. Maybe that will help. Maybe not.

It's very sad to watch as this wonderful old neighborhood is becoming a ghetto. But we are gathering steam with television coverage, meetings with the offending businesses and will be attending city council sessions to complain. They will probably want to discuss it for a year or two so as not to offend the homeless kids or the not-for-profit businesses that enable them.

In the meantime, our property values spiral downwards. Who, in their right mind, would buy a property here if they knew what was going on?

13 comments:

GodlessMom said...

Montrose really is one of the coolest areas of Houston, what a shame that this is happening in your neighborhood. Is there any way to point a surveillance camera at the Starbucks parking lot, maybe catch the thieves in the act?

particle said...

here in puerto rico we call it "Insanity in the Sun". I want to start a blog with said title. actually i have...i just don't seem to post to it.

Chox said...

A racket! Sounds like the setup City Tow had with the city of San Francisco...cars were being towed illegally, and San Francisco was making fistfuls of cash from bogus parking tickets on the windshields of the cars when they returned them to you. Don't pay the ticket? They send an email to Sacramento and prevent you from reregistering your car at the DMV or you renewing your license.

Total BULLSHIT!

Kenny said...

That is totally freakin' unbeleivable!! I know about them teenagers.... see them running around Montrose all the time.

Somebody at work got her car stolen at the Chinese embassy, almost right next to that Starbucks.

Jeeez!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Carol F. was a victim over at starbucks..(her car)...why not call akins army? Ask for Peggy !!!xoxo's

Scott W said...

I lived right behind Niko Niko's for five years, two blocks from ground zero of Montrose. During that time my car was broken into five times, the last time the crackhead stole my cd player (the third one) without the face plate. Stole the fucking thing without the faceplate! And once they stole my ashtray. On many occasions walking Chester I found crack pipes, that copper scouring thingie they use for a filter and hypodermic needles. That last break in pushed me over the edge and I moved to a quiet part of Montrose. It (Montrose) is really the only part of Houston I care to live in, it's convenient to everything in my life except work, but that's just a hop and a skip up to the Heights.

Keep up the crusade Dave & Co! I appreciate Covenant House and Interfaith Ministries. There are so many homeless kids and many of them are gay. They need places that are safe. But we as inner city dwellers need the comfort of security also. They need to be held accountable for letting the kids wander the streets and the police need to become more involved. For God's sake, you live two blocks from the local police station. Like they don't know what's happening...

Scott W said...

PS, I have an almost hatred of tow truck drivers. They are rude and act like they own the road. I never give them an inch.

gary said...

Dave, thanks for your efforts. Gary

Lee said...

Sheesh! That both friggin' blows AND sucks! Good luck in dealing with it!

Hannen said...

As you know Dave, I only live a few blocks from you and I know what you mean. Check out my post for today. I was at the laundromat across from your place the other day and was amazaed at the number of guys frequenting the alley beside the mat.

Anonymous said...

The Scam operates in downtown Houston too. Parked in a closed Mc Donalds parking lot around 11 to drop a friend off and buy his ticket at the Greyhound bus terminal and 5 minutes later the car was gone. Towing company wasn't registered, licenced, insured, and authorized the tow for itself. HPD isn't interested as it happened on private property, but the Dept of Transportation Motor Carrier Division in Austin is investigating. A. Towing and Best Auto Storage are both into this scam where a street person gets paid $20 to call it in. The cab drivers also demand $20 to take you 5 miles to the storage place. for taking you back to the cars

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Darrin Peters said...

I looked up scams for tow trucks in Houston and this came up. Yesterday my car was towed from montrose area, behind buffalo exchange. No sign was posted by my car and a white jeep was parked there. went and shopped, came out and my car was gone. A guy at the bar across the way said this kid was in the jeep calling into his towing friends and using his car as a ploy to leave there and make it look like it was safe. I went and got my car from the tow place and there were 2 other groups there that the same thing happened to. I drove back to buffalo exchange to see if the kid was still there in the jeep. His jeep was reparked right in the same spot that I had originally seen it. So i parked behind him to box him in. He had left it there and went inside somewhere, soon enough two tow trucks cam in 30seconds and towed 2 other cars that I tried to protect. They whipped their two truck into the front of the vehicles and whipped them around. I was impressed. It took them 30 seconds a car with me even blocking in the protected car with my car. I harassed the tow truck guy and he said "man, what we are doing here is perfectly legal" pointed out that the white jeep was still there and he just carried on to allow his lure to continue to get him $218 a pop (155 plus 65 in other fees). THe taxi driver that picked me up said that he sees this happen all the time from that area of montrose. What can I do.... I feel like houston is getting scammed by these low class citizens. I just got back from doing my tour in the military and am headed into the fire department. This makes me grow sour on a segment of America, do we really need to scam to get ahead.