Folk singer Steve Goodman immortalized the nickname for the unpopular Lincoln Towing company with his song “Lincoln Park Pirates” when he sang “there’s no car too heavy and no one can make us shut down.”
But after an investigation that began in 2016, Illinois Commerce Commission staff have requested the company’s license be revoked.
The commission’s staff, in their post-hearing brief, allege 462 unauthorized tows, as well as 369 times the company used an unlicensed operator in the eighth-month span of the examination period between 2015-2016. Lawyers representing the company have a month to file their own post-hearing brief, after which an administrative law judge could make the recommendation to the commission to revoke the license.
“Lincoln’s pattern and practice of conducting unauthorized relocations harms the public and demonstrates that Lincoln is incompetent and unworthy to hold a relocator’s license,” the commission staff concluded.
Commission spokeswoman Marianne Manko said in 2017, the company received 189 citations, though that does not necessarily mean infractions were found in all cases. The company is currently allowed to operate under a license that was set to expire in 2017, because their application for a new license was put on hold.
Investigated violations include tows that were conducted after contracts were canceled, at property addresses under contract with another company, prior to contracts being filed with the commission and on a patrol basis when contracts were filed as an on-call basis.
ICC staff also suggested allowing the company to keep its license endangers the towing industry.
“Relocators that operate outside of the law have an unfair competitive advantage over those who abide by the law because it lowers their operating costs,” the brief stated.
Another towing company’s licensure, Rendered Services, is also under consideration by the commission.
Allen Perl, attorney representing Lincoln, declined to comment on the details of the case, but urged the public to read the company’s arguments when they file in three weeks. He said he estimates that out of the roughly 13,000 cars that the company tows each year, 1 out of every 500 is found liable for a violation.
“People and companies make mistakes, the question is what do you do when you’re faced with that, do you resolve it or run away from it,” Perl said. “I’m not running away.
Lincoln Towing, the largest towing company in Illinois, has a history of scandal that’s put them at the center of lawsuits and consumer criticism and hauled them into City Hall. Nearly 60 years on the streets of Chicago have built them their infamous “pirate” reputation.
In 2016, City Council approved a “towing bill of rights” as a response to waves of complaints against Lincoln.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) described it as a “game-changer” that requires towing companies to annually provide a list of locations where they are contracted to remove vehicles to the Chicago Police Department. The list also must distinguish whether the contract calls for patrolling of the private property or for relocating to occur “upon request.”
In one case, two employees pleaded guilty to the aggravated battery felony charges for knocking a man off a 16-foot-ladder and breaking his leg in the act of towing his truck in 2015.
But Perl argues against the negative narrative, saying their 30-year-long loyal customers “love us.”
“Lincoln tows illegally parked cars from private property, people ask us to tow for them,” Perl said. “Taking this license away, it wouldn’t be very nice.”