Booting cars is big business in Atlanta. The city may be in charge of booting vehicles on public streets, but apartment complexes, businesses, parking lots, and other private property owners make it very profitable for private booting companies to operate in the city. Now, some Georgia lawmakers are working on legislation to end the practice.
ABC News reports that Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi has unsuccessfully tried to get the practice of booting cars banned in the past and still believes it’s an inefficient system. He told the outlet that he understands why business owners do it but thinks towing is a better solution. “If you’re parked illegally and the private property owner or the city wants to remove you from that spot, towing has that impact. Booting doesn’t,” he told ABC News. “The car is still in the spot so the spot is not available for anyone else if that’s your intended goal.”
Georgia State Senator Josh McLaurin agrees with Farokhi. “You see through the social media reactions, the reactions of local news when stories about booting come up,” he told ABC News. “This is a problem that a lot of Atlantans actually are really concerned about.” McLaurin previously introduced a bill that would have banned the practice, but he failed to find enough support for it. Still, he plans to reintroduce it in the next legislative session.
“What it comes down to is what is the most lawful, safe, and humane way really to enforce parking,” he told ABC News. “There are all kinds of different alternatives [such as] paper tickets, controlled access, towing.”
The rise of booting in Atlanta has also led to increased demand for vigilantes who will unboot your car for a lower price than the booting companies charge. ABC News spoke with The Boot Girls, two unidentified women who have made a business out of freeing people’s cars after they got their hands on a boot key. “We usually wake up at, like 8 a.m., [with] our phone blowing up is full of boots,” Boot Shiesty, one of the “Boot Girls,” told ABC News. “It can last [until] like 3 a.m.”
According to the Atlanta Police Department, it’s not illegal to have a boot key, but you’re not supposed to use it to “modify, tamper, or disengage a booting device from a vehicle.”
“The owners of these businesses are authorized to either boot or tow vehicles that violate the terms of their private parking areas through independent contracts,” the department said in a statement. “The Atlanta Police Department does not intervene between motorists and private business owners when vehicles are booted in violation unless a criminal matter arises.”
If you ask Jeff Phillips, the owner of a private booting company, though, booting is a better practice than towing. “If you ban booting it’s going to leave my client with one option and that’s towing,” he told ABC News. “Unfortunately for people who are in violation at that point, the fee will be three to five times higher.”
Still, State Senator John Albers supports McLaurin’s bill to ban booting. “This is a bad industry. It’s wrong on all levels,” he told ABC News. “And our job as lawmakers is to address that and protect our citizens.”