City officials are poised to crack down on “rogue” tow truck drivers in Chicago by requiring them to be licensed to operate in the city, with a key city panel unanimously endorsing a revised proposal after the original plan stalled a month ago.
The measure, scheduled for a final vote by the full City Council on May 26, would give the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection the authority to license tow trucks in Chicago in an effort to crack down on the kind of operators immortalized in song by Steve Goodman as “Lincoln Park Pirates.”
Tow truck operators would pay a fee of $250 per truck or $750 per lot to license their operations under the plan authored by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward).
Tow trucks could lose their city licenses after three violations, according to the measure. The state of Illinois also licenses tow truck operators.
The trucks would be banned from soliciting work at accident sites, “impersonating or falsely representing to be” from a government agency and “making a false, misleading, or threatening statement or representation to coerce” a potential customer, according to the measure.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked Chicago as the city with the second-most towing abuse complaints in the nation, Villegas said.
“Law enforcement, CPD, has reported instances of gunfire between rival towing companies and incidents of arson at towing facilities, clear elements of organized crime,” Villegas said. “The city must combat rogue tow trucks.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) said a tow truck driver, speeding through a residential neighborhood in his Southwest Side ward, motioned toward his waistband and “intimated” he would shoot Lopez and his ward superintendent after the alderman told the driver to stop going the wrong way down a one-way street.
Violations of the ordinance could trigger fines between $500 and $1,000 per offense, with operators claiming to be a government or law enforcement official facing fines of $10,000 to $20,000 per offense, according to the measure.
After the measure stalled a month ago, Villegas agreed to exempt tow operations with city contracts and to require drivers to disclose felony convictions during the background check for the license.