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'Predatory towing' fight brews

Disputes over parking pit drivers against tow truck operators.

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In Orlando, Fla., one brazen tow truck driver openly flaunts his aggressive towing style, using proceeds from questionable yanks to fund a personal fleet of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

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.

And in late December, Asheville, N.C., police caught two drivers red-handed when they yanked a decoy vehicle from a pay-to-park lot as cameras rolled in a nearby police surveillance van.

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.

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