It’s All Technology’s Fault You’re More Likely To Get Your Car Towed In New York

Business Insider‘s penchant for superlative, caps-heavy headlines doesn’t stop with Apple earnings reports or Zynga filings. Oh no. It also extends to its editors’ personal lives. Thus when Henry Blodget’s car got towed the other night, the lifelong New Yorker penned a cautionary tale to local car owners entitled, “WARNING: An Amazing New Technology Is Sweeping the Streets of New York . . .” What, no exclamation points?! As is the case with most technological developments, innovation giveth as it taketh away. In Mr. Blodget’s case, technology helped taketh away his car to a tow lot in Bushwick.

Mr. Blodget narrates the near-Kafkaesque journey, from finding his car missing from its parking spot on the Upper West Side to trying to discover how a truck registered in Connecticut without New York parking tickets could be towed, he finally stumbles on his answer: a new database integration that lets marshals go after ticket-delinquents by names, instead of just license plates.

Every evening, the man explained, the marshals’ agents hit the streets in their tow trucks, with one truck assigned to scan one side of the street, and another truck assigned to scan the other. The agents plug the plate numbers into a computer, and–thanks to a recent database integration–the computer scans not just the car bearing that particular plate but all other cars owned by the owner of that car. The agents scan thousands of plates a night and usually end up towing about 30 cars.


I asked about the cross-state issue: How did the marshals nail an owner who had cars registered in two different states? Weren’t the databases separate?


The databases used to be separate, the man explained. But now, thanks to an intra-state agreement, New York has acquired the data held in the Connecticut, New Jersey, and several other key states’ databases, which is updated each week. That data allows the marshals to bust delinquents who own cars registered out of state.

And that’s when I finally understood why our truck had come up positive: Because of unpaid parking tickets  on our other car–a Volvo station wagon my wife had registered in New York.

But Blodget, true to form, both starts and ends his warning post on a bullish note about the city’s technological destiny. “The future is about data, technologists tell us. And that’s certainly the case in New York.” Something to think about when the tow pound operator in Bushwick is telling you, “Honey, you obviously forgot where you parked it. Why don’t you go there and walk around.”

It’s All Technology’s Fault You’re More Likely To Get Your Car Towed In New York