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Tow trucks rule the streets of D.C. Sometimes they are motorists’ saviors, swooping broken-down cars out of harm’s way. Other times, they are drivers’ sworn enemies, hauling their vehicles off to impound lots. But in one corner of Georgetown, residents are reversing the relationship and dragging a fleet of tow trucks into the glare of parking-enforcement scrutiny.

The embattled tow trucks belong to ABC Towing, which dispatches its fleet from a Getty gas station on the east side of Georgetown, at the confluence of M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The Getty houses four gas pumps and an auto-repair shop in addition to the towing operation. To free up space when business gets hectic, the tow trucks vacate the lot and idle in the surrounding neighborhood, particularly along M Street.

Bill Starrels, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who lives nearby on 31st Street NW, has launched an attack against the tow trucks, which he says are creeping too far into the neighborhood. At a Jan. 7 community meeting, after a showing of tow-truck photos, Starrels’ fellow commissioners passed a resolution urging police to step up enforcement against ABC’s trucks. “We’ve received a bunch of constituent mail complaining about the situation,” Starrels says. “It’s aggravating when you get parking complaints about tow trucks.”

Abe Aburish, manager of the Getty and the towing company, says he is baffled by the backlash. Nobody has complained to him directly, he says. Instead, in late fall, a city employee appeared on the stretch of M Street adjacent to the station, tacking up new no-parking signs. “I don’t understand what they want from my trucks,” says Aburish. “Why does it bother them? Because my trucks are ugly?”

Starrels insinuates that the folks at the Getty have worked out a “cozy relationship” with daytime parking-enforcement officers, which allows the tow trucks to flout the law. Not so, Aburish says. “I have a contract with the government,” he says, “but they don’t give me any breaks. I get a lot of tickets, and I pay them.”

Starrels wants the tow trucks to retreat from the streets and to park exclusively on the Getty property. But he doubts the tow trucks will be removed by force. “I don’t think that the government could tow the tow trucks with the current equipment they own,” he speculates. “I can’t imagine how you tow something that big.”

Professional towers, however, are less awestruck than Starrels by that challenge. A dispatcher from Abe’s Towing in Adams Morgan, for instance, says that towing a tow truck is no big deal: “All you need is a larger tow truck.” CP