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NEW: Woman cited after car towed with kids inside

A Maryland woman was cited by police after her car was towed, unknowingly with two young children inside.

Arlington County police were called shortly after 11 a.m. today (Tuesday) by a distraught woman reporting that her car was stolen from outside the Macy’s in Pentagon City. A one-year-old and a three-year-old were inside the vehicle, the woman reported.

“At approximately 11:10 a.m. on September 5, police were dispatched to the 1100 block of S. Hayes Street for the report of a stolen vehicle with two children inside,” police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “While officers were responding to the call, it was determined the vehicle had been reported as towed for being parked in a no parking zone.”

The car had been towed by Advanced Towing and was back at their lot in Ballston, a dispatcher told officers, who then responded to the lot.

“The preliminary investigation indicates the tow operator was unaware the children were inside and upon notification, pulled over to check on them,” Savage said. “Responding officers then made contact with the children and determined they were in good health.”

The 26-year-old driver of the car that was towed “was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and released on a summons,” Savage added. “The investigation into the incident is ongoing.”

ARLnow was on scene as the woman arrived in a police cruiser and was reunited with the children within the tow lot.

An Advanced Towing spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow that the vehicle was towed while the engine was still running, so the air conditioning was still on in the car as temperatures reached into the 90s. Her towing fee was waived, the spokeswoman said.

John O’Neill, owner of the towing company, told ARLnow that the driver looked into the car but did not see the children. They were in their car seats in the backseat of the Hyundai crossover-style vehicle, ARLnow observed through the tow company’s fence, after a police officer had opened a rear door.

“I looked at the driver’s pictures before towing you cannot see those kids in the car at all,” O’Neill said. He claimed the vehicle was left unattended for 16 minutes in a tow-away zone outside the Pentagon City mall.

“We see this all the time,” O’Neill said. “She didn’t want to be inconvenienced to take the kids out to go into the mall and left them unattended in the fire lane.”

The normal procedure when a driver sees children in an unattended vehicle, he said, is to “call the police and we wait.”

Advanced has been the target of much ire — from members of the public and public officials alike — over its prolific trespass towing, which many claim is done in a reckless or “predatory” manner.

In 2021, a lawsuit by Virginia’s then-Attorney General resulted in a fine levied by an Arlington judge — though the suit was largely unsuccessful and O’Neill claimed vindication. Last month, Arlington County began enforcing zoning rules related to Advanced’s tow lot, following a campaign by a local Twitter user.

In 2020, O’Neill was injured by an Uber driver who struck him while trying to drive off the lot without paying. The driver later pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

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