Towing industry reform needed to wipe out organized crime, Montreal's city watchdog says

Inspector General Denis Gallant likens the city's tow-truck industry to the wild west, blaming the chaos on the fact that boroughs no longer designate one company for police and firefighters to call when there's an accident or when a car is seized.

Threats, violence, assault rampant in tow-truck business, according to Inspector General Denis Gallant

Denis Gallant says in order to clean up the towing industry, the city should implement a controlled system across the 19 boroughs. (CBC)

It often starts with a vaguely menacing phone call, meant to deter newcomers from doing business in a certain area of the city.

Then come the violent threats, trucks set alight, garages vandalized and even people beaten up, in some cases.

Those are the kinds of stories Montreal Inspector General Denis Gallant heard while conducting an investigation into the city's towing industry, which he likened to the wild west.

The best way to deter organized crime from infiltrating the industry, he said, is to implement a controlled system across the 19 boroughs.

"We'll have more regulations, and organized crime will say, 'I don't want to go in that business anymore because there's no value for us,'" he said.

Gangsters enticed by 'lucrative' towing: IG

Gallant got more than 100 tow-truck operators to confide in him about the violence and intimidation they encounter daily from the Hells Angels, the Mafia and street gangs.

He said he heard about tow-truck business owners compelled to pay protection money to organized crime or threatened when they tried to tow cars in areas run by other companies.

"Honest people don't want to continue business in Montreal because they're scared," he said.
More than 100 tow-truck operators confided in the city inspector general about the violence and intimidation they encounter daily from organized crime groups. (Radio-Canada)

Gallant blames the situation on the fact that the towing business is a "lucrative" one, and boroughs no longer designate a specific company for police and firefighters to call when there's an accident or a driver's car is seized.

Under the old contracts, tow-truck operators would get a fixed price of around $100 for a towing job, but in the absence of those contracts, the cost of towing has skyrocketed.

Gallant said he spoke to someone who paid $400 to have his car towed four kilometres.

"Organized crime [is] there for only one thing — make money, and good money," he said.

Gallant wants the city to return to that controlled system, which would include mandatory background checks and impose a set price on towing jobs.

Mayor Denis Coderre says before the city can harmonize the regulations, it needs the province to pass a decree, something he doesn't expect to take long.​

With files from Salimah Shivji