New law hopes to curb Ravens parking scams

BALTIMORE - As you head down to the game you know you'll be searching for the perfect spot to park.  The best spots are two things:  close and cheap.  But the lots that offer spaces with both those features may end up getting you towed if you're not careful.   

Monday night football may shine a spotlight on Baltimore.  But one problem that comes with it can cast a dark shadow on the fun of the game, parking scams.  City Councilman Bill Cole explains, "It's not a new phenomenon.  It happens every Ravens season."

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Cole, who represents the section of the city where M&T Bank Stadium, says parking scams have been problematic for fans in years past.  That area of town is ripe for them, because although there seem to be plenty of open lots and spaces, most of it isn't open to the public.  Streets in south Baltimore are marked with ‘No Parking – Stadium Event' signs and many of the lots are fenced and private.

But on game days, many of those private lots are opened to the public at a price.  Parking is a legitimate side business for many, but not all who put out a sign and wave you in.  Cole says, "People come in from out of town and they don't realize that because there's a sandwich board that says, "Park close to the stadium or closest parking $30", that it means it's legitimate."

Instead, Cole says some bad apples take peoples' money to park in lots they don't own, pocket the cash and then tow trucks show up and haul you out at a hefty price.  But the councilman hopes a new city law will shut down the scheme.  It asks lot operators to give the parking public a receipt, staff the lot during the entire game and pay the city a share of their profits.  Cole says, "Any legitimate operator is collecting parking taxes and has pulled a permit from the city under our new law so they should be able to demonstrate they are a legal and authorized lot.  If they can't, I would probably move on."

The city has a parking inspector who began checking lots for compliance last season.  If you want to check whether the lot you're considering is legit, you get a receipt, ask the attendant if someone will be staying to keep an eye on the cars and ask for proof the operator registered with the city.  Cole says if they haven't gotten the tax permit, the operator is not supposed to be charging people to park. 

And if you're really worried about parking, don't forget – it's to get towed from a light rail car.

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