CHICAGO — As the Illinois Commerce Commission launches an investigation into Lincoln Towing's business practices, an alderman who once suggested forcibly removing the company from Clark Street said he's glad someone is finally "looking out for the little guy."
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), whose ward includes Lincoln Towing's yard at 4882 N. Clark St., has called the business a "bad operator" and vowed to hold it accountable, pushing a City Council resolution asking Lincoln to "testify to their towing practices and policies" before the Council.
For decades, Lincoln has been accused of illegally towing cars by any means necessary. Legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko railed against the "Lincoln Park Pirates" starting in the late '60s, chronicling violent encounters between motorists and tow truck drivers. Dozens of DNAinfo readers shared stories of their run-ins with the company on Neighborhood Square.
"These allegations go back decades," Pawar said Thursday. "If the outcome of this is that Lincoln Towing loses their license, that's on them. They've had 40 years to correct this."
The ICC has investigated Lincoln Towing in 166 cases since July, according to the agency. The cases range from allegedly overcharging drivers and moving authorized cars to having improper invoicing and signs.
Lincoln Towing was found guilty of a violation in 28 of those cases, while 47 were closed and 92 are pending, the agency said.
Now, the agency will use those cases, any criminal records of Lincoln's owners and employees and Lincoln's safety record to determine whether it is fit to hold a license and should be allowed to operate, ICC Commissioner Miguel del Valle said.
While Pawar thinks yanking Lincoln's license would be a good thing, he did have advice for the notorious company:
"I think they can start out by issuing an apology because this isn't just one incident on one random night by a few people who were upset," he said. "This is incident after incident, ticket after ticket, violation after violation. ... If it were me, and I were trying to do some damage control, I would apologize."
Pawar said the controversy surrounding Lincoln Towing points to the need for a "Towing Bill of Rights" in Chicago — a specific set of rules that makes the rights of drivers clear. He hopes to work with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office on that this spring.
As for all those people who say Lincoln Towing stole their car? Pawar suggests speaking up when your car is illegally towed, scratched, something is missing, or if a driver mistreats you.
"The only way to help solve this problem is to actually report problems that they have," he said.
"When something happens, please do file a complaint with the ICC."
Those who want to file a complaint about Lincoln Towing or other companies can call the Illinois Commerce Commission police at 847-294-4326.
"If [the investigation] means that their license goes away, that's fine," Pawar said. "I think there are more productive uses for that property, anyway."
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