TRAVERSE CITY — A pack of poorly parked youths avoided police who came to the door of a suspected underage drinking party in downtown Traverse City, but they — and their parents — found themselves on the hook after officers ordered tow trucks to impound the obstructive vehicles.
About 30 vehicles that blocked a downtown road and alley alerted police to a party in the 500 block of Third Street early Feb. 8. Traverse City police Capt. Mike Ayling said officers knocked on the door but no one from among the 20 to 30 people inside answered or stepped outside.
That's when police enforced the city's winter parking ordinance and sent tow trucks to impound 17 problem vehicles. Several neighborhood residents moved their vehicles to avoid an unwanted tow, but the skittish youngsters remained inside.
"The officers apparently told them several times, 'We're towing cars,'" Ayling said.
Greg Nienhouse, owner of Brickyard Towing, said the vehicles' registered owners — mostly parents — paid at least $130 each to free them from the impound lot. He said one of the 17 vehicles turned out to be a "mistake" and its owner didn't attend the party; he waived the impound fee as a "courtesy."
"Every single parent I had an interaction with was appreciative of the information," Nienhouse said. "All of them were above and beyond courteous. There was not a cross word for anyone involved, except for their kids."
Ayling said no minor-in-possession-of-alcohol tickets were issued.
"You can't go into a house to affect an arrest on a misdemeanor unless you have a search warrant," he said.
A Facebook post by Grand Traverse 911 brought Internet attention to the incident. About 3,800 Facebook users "liked" the message that informed the youths they didn't need to move their vehicles from the roadway because Brickyard Towing impounded them.
"Thanks and as always make good choices," the post ends.