You can sign up on this website with your email address and license plate number. If your car is involuntarily towed by the City of Boston, then the system will email you.
The alert system will work for any vehicle towed from City of Boston property. This includes cars towed for street cleaning, unpaid tickets, snow emergencies, as abandoned, and by Boston Police Department directive. It also covers cars towed from private property.
Not covered by this system are cars towed by the Massachusetts State Police. For example, vehicles towed from the Jamaicaway are towed under the jurisdiction of the State Police, and the City of Boston does not have access to this data.
Alerts are intended to provide timely notification of the tow. Once alerted, drivers will be in a position to resolve the situation by retrieving their vehicles quickly and avoiding the accumulation of storage charges.
Typically one to four hours after a car is towed. Notifications are based on information entered into the Boston Police Department towing database. Cars towed to the Boston Transportation Department's Frontage Road tow lot have their information entered into the database as they arrive at the lot. However, when a car is towed to a private tow lot (such as for street sweeping), it is the responsibility of the tow operator to inform the BPD, and this extra step may delay the process of entering the information into the database.
Users are limited to ten plate numbers per email address. If you own a fleet and have a legitimate business need for alerts for more than ten license plates, then please describe your case to email@example.com and we will find a way to accomodate you.
You can unsubscribe from the subscribe webpage, by toggling the 'add/delete' option.
To obtain a list of license-plates your email address is already receiving alerts for, submit your email address on the remind-me page [link].
If you subscribe using the "HTML Email" form, then towing alerts will contain full details. If you subscribe using the "TXT" form, then because of TXT message length restrictions, your towing alerts will only contain a link which you can follow to get full details.
There is no charge from the City. However, your cell phone company may bill you for TXT messages you receive - it depends on your cell phone plan.
The towing of a vehicle is already considered public information and, today, anyone can contact the BPD with a license plate number and inquire if it has been towed.
It is important to note, however, that, although towing alerts are intended as a service to Boston drivers, the City of Boston is not in a position to prohibit others from utilizing the system as well. In particular, those who are in the business of repossessing vehicles may apply for towing alerts. This may result in a vehicle being repossessed directly at the Tow Lot prior to the registered owner having an opportunity to reclaim the vehicle, thereby adversely impacting the driver who may be experiencing financial difficulties.
We got the idea from The Chicago Tribune which hosts chicagotows.com, which lets you lookup towed cars in Chicago. Emailing towing alerts seemed like a natural upgrade to Chicago's lookup system. Programming and development of Boston's system was completed by full-time city employees in several business days.