Disputes over parking pit drivers against tow truck operators.
On Christmas Eve in Palm Desert, Calif., police arrested three tow truck drivers after an investigation "revealed that the towing service was committing auto thefts and extortion under the guise of legitimate tows," according to the arrest report.
Hitching onto the insular, cash-driven and lightly regulated tow truck industry, dozens of communities from Asheville to Davenport, Iowa to Fairview Ore., are exposing a shadowy and controversial front in the parking wars.
Taken together, recent headlines from around the country offer a glimpse into the nebulous underworld of "predatory towing" where risk-taking parking scofflaws share some of the blame with wildcatting tow truck drivers.
But the tension is building as downtown congestion grows, the troubled economy puts pressure on tow companies' cash flow, and what drivers see as their rights increasingly conflict – all summed up by that sinking feeling of perusing a parking lot for a car that is no longer there.
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