Wreck Chasers Coming To TLC
Wanna know more about wreck chasers, the tow trucks that race through city streets looking for accident victims? Don’t want to go so far as to experience the pleasure of meeting them in real life? You’re in luck. The Inky has a blurb about a new series on chasers, set right here in our beloved Philadelphia:
Here’s the hook of TLC’s Wreck Chasers, premiering Oct. 28: It follows four towing companies on their rounds. As one tow guy told me, they fight everyone – the police, one another, and the hapless motorists. “Real gritty” is how a TLC rep described a rough cut of one episode he saw.
The series was green-lit, as it were, in the spring, well before the July shooting of a tow-truck operator at an accident scene, which led to a city crackdown. The one-hour series, running five or six weeks, will premiere with two half-hour episodes shown in succession.
TLC doesn’t have any official info up yet, but it sounds like the Skank Patrol will be making an appearance. Oi vey.
Speaking of wreck chasers, last week’s cover story on the towing industry (regrettably skank free) focused on the failure of the city to enforce local regulations. What we didn’t tell you is there’s actually a federal law going unenforced as well: FCC regulation 705, which bans the interception of public two-way radio transmissions for profit. The FCC interprets the rule to say “An example of using an intercepted call for a beneficial use in violation of Section 705 would be someone listening to accident reports on a police channel and then sending his or her tow truck to the reported accident scene in order to obtain business.”
The law it little known and rarely if ever enforced. The FCC was unable to provide examples of an instance in which violations were prosecuted. Even Police Chief Charles Ramsey expressed surprise when told about the statue. “Obviously if it is [illegal], they don’t give a damn about it,” he says about wreck chasers. “We’ve still got to come up with a way to keep [accident information] off the air to minimize any problems.” The police currently only deploy accident information over laptops so towing operators can’t listen in.
Not everyone thinks that’s a good idea. There is reason to keep all police communications over public airwaves, says Ed Cummings, who goes by bernieS as a producer for the New York radio show “Off the Hook,” about the effect of technology laws on the public. “It makes people aware about unsafe conditions in their community,” Cummings says. “It allows them to hear how their public servants whose salaries they pay are responding to the results of unsafe conditions in the neighborhoods.”
“If tow trucks weren’t racing to the scene in violation of federal law, this would not have happened,” he says about July’s shooting. “It’s one of the few FCC regulations that makes perfect sense. Anyone can monitor anything over the radio spectrum, but you can’t use it for profit.”
Councilman Frank Rizzo, the guy who suggested the police take accident calls off the air, is unmoved. “I appreciate the fact that they want to hear about accidents in our city, but I think the decision the police department made is a good one,” the councilman says. He says the police lawyers are reviewing whether regulation 705 actually applies or could be enforced here, but for now, the info remains on the laptops, not radios.