The pirates of Chicago

Chicago is an amazing city. Lots of history, great steaks (even by Texas standards), my favorite style of pizza and one of my favorite football teams.

On the downside, the city’s political cronyism and corruption is legendary, its finances, to put it mildly, are in disarray and the homicide rate is the highest among America’s biggest cities (Washington D.C.’s is higher but it’s not all that big).


Chicago is also home to one of the most predatory towing services around: Lincoln Towing Service.

Lincoln Towing Service is a private company that contracts with Chicago-area businesses to remove illegally parked vehicles from their parking lots. Lincoln also does repossession work but does not provide roadside assistance or respond to accident calls.

In fairness, New York City’s fleet of police tow trucks is probably deployed just as vigorously, and the volume of complaints about Lincoln Towing not too out of line for such businesses, but its practices are over the top.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Commerce Commission’s enforcement division has opened 166 investigations into Lincoln Towing Service just since the company’s license was renewed for another two years last July. So fa, 75 cases have been resolved and nearly half resulted in fines or settlements. since the ICC renewed the firm’s towing license for two years in July.

In one case, police charged two Lincoln employees with knocking a 55-year-old worker off a 16-foot ladder when they towed away his truck. The employees not only didn’t aid the worker, they laughed as they left.

Lincoln Towing Service’s history stretches back over four decades. In the 1970s, the company was already so notorious that folksinger Steve Goodman wrote a song, “The Lincoln Park Pirates,” about it.

Now it appears that the piper may finally be demanding his fee.

A mountain of complaints, a petition signed by more than 3,000 people and, most importantly, pressure from two Chicago aldermen, Ameya Pawar and Ariel Reboyras, have gotten the attention of the folks down in Springfield.

Illinois’ Commerce Commission has voted to hold a hearing to determine if Lincoln Towing Service, “…is in fact fit to hold a license to operate in Illinois,” according to Commissioner Miguel del Valle.

Seems to me that after 40 years of what has  amounted to abuse, Lincoln Towing Service might want to strike the Jolly Roger before the Illinois Commerce Commission and thousands of Chicagoans sink them.

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