Montreal and the GTA aim to clean up towing industry
Toronto and Montreal have both taken steps to clean up a notoriously dangerous industry that preys on consumers while also cannibalizing its own: towing.
The release of a scathing report in 2017 by Montreal’s Inspector General found “a territory-splitting agreement and a climate of violence and retaliation” between various towing companies. The Hell’s Angels, the Mafia, and street gangs had carved up various territories, using violence and intimidation to hold power. “The owner of one company said he had to pay between $500 and $700 per week in protection money to a member of the Hell’s Angels if he wanted to continue operating without competition in his borough,” according to a CBC report.
In Ontario, four tow operators were murdered in two years in the GTA, and dozens of cases of arson saw tow trucks and a collision reporting centre go up in flames. Other drivers have been shot, or shot at. In 2019, “police conducted a series of raids under the name Project Kraken, charging more than 70 people — including seven drivers — with offenses ranging from firearms possession to conspiracy to commit murder.”
As unscrupulous tow operators monitor police channels and race to crash scenes, it’s unwitting consumers, often shaken at the roadside, who get ripped off or threatened. Perhaps most disturbing in Ontario was the arrest earlier this year of four OPP officers in connection with the alleged preferential treatment of some tow operators. Charges ranged from breach of trust to secret commissions. One of the cops was also charged with obtaining sexual services for consideration. None of this is a good look when you can’t tell the good guys from the bad ones.
“Starting July 1, Montreal police will introduce 10 “exclusive towing areas” on the island of Montreal, and drivers will be forced to use tow services that correspond to those areas at a fixed rate.” If your car breaks down, is involved in a collision, or is blocking traffic or a danger to other drivers in these main thoroughfares, police — or you — will be calling for a tow. Rates have been preset to eradicate the free-for-all of unregulated operators showing up on scene. If you are in one of the towing areas, it is now tow-and-go. No holding up traffic: if you’re in a parking lot or quieter side street and broken down, you can call whomever you like. It also does not impact the highways that cross the island of Montreal, which are already covered by dialling *4141 to contact a regulated towing service.