Four tow trucks were set on fire in the span of a half hour in York Region on Friday morning, as feuding between tow truck drivers continued to escalate across the Greater Toronto Area.
Two of the trucks targeted in Friday’s arson spree were in Aurora and the other two were in Richmond Hill. In one case, the torched truck was parked at a home where another two other trucks were similarly burned in March of last year. An attached garage at the side of the home still bears scorch marks from that attack.
“It’s quite obvious these incidents are connected to each other,” York Regional Police spokesperson Sergeant Andy Pattenden said Friday afternoon, noting that a number of in-depth investigations are under way – both internally and in partnership with other police services – into the nature of those connections.
“They’re not just happening within one area – it’s Aurora, Richmond Hill, Markham. ... We’re seeing it right across our region.”
On Monday evening of this week, a tow truck was shot at in a busy parking lot of a Richmond Hill grocery store. Police said the driver was not injured.
On Wednesday night, another tow truck driver was shot near Highway 401 and Leslie Street in Toronto. His injuries were non-life threatening. Earlier that same day, Toronto’s two collision-reporting centres were set on fire – arsons that police are also probing as potentially connected to what they’ve described as a “tow truck turf war,” given the inextricable links between collision-reporting centres and the towing industry.
The violence – which has also targeted a Vaughan, Ont., law firm that specialized in representing insurance companies in lawsuits against tow-truck operators over exorbitant towing and storage bills – has spurred renewed calls from industry stakeholders for provincial regulation and oversight.
The towing industry is licensed at a municipal level, but just 17 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have any such system, according to CAA. The result is a patchwork of confusing and contradictory rules, particularly on provincial highways where most such bylaws do not apply. The Ministry of Transportation has said it’s concerned about the issue and examining potential solutions.
“We talk about these incidents being targeted … [but] there’s a lot of other people around who have nothing to do with it,” Sgt. Pattenden said.
“So the chances of somebody who is innocent and has nothing to do with any of this getting injured are very high. Community safety is at risk while these people are out on the street, and whoever is responsible for these crimes, we need to get them in custody.”