The towing company immortalized in the 1972 Steve Goodman song as “The Lincoln Park Pirates” is facing a possible suspension of their business license by the state of Illinois over their abusive practices.
Lincoln Towing Service is embroiled in a battle with Illinois legislators who are asking a judge to suspend the business’s license. Since July 2016, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has investigated Lincoln in 166 cases for a variety of infractions such as overcharging drivers, towing cars that were legally parked, and filing improper paperwork. 92 of these cases are still pending.
For many Chicagoans, especially on the North Side, Lincoln Towing has a reputation as a neighborhood menace that stretches back half a century.
Lincoln is contracted by business and property owners to remove unauthorized vehicles from private property in the city of Chicago. Founded in the 1960’s by Ross Cascio, the company has been noted since its inception for numerous shady business practices including towing authorized vehicles, price gauging, non-compliance with city ordinances, theft, intimidation, and violence.
All the way back in 1968, the Chicago Tribune reported complaints about Lincoln, including that someone from the towing company had threatened the life of a disgruntled car owner when he threatened to take them to court.
In 1971, 44th Ward aldermanic candidate James Kargman tried to take advantage of public sentiment against Lincoln to his advantage. He organized local businesses to cancel contracts with Cascio and repeatedly called for new regulations on the towing industry to curb them. Cascio responded that he was “performing a necessary service. Someone has to keep private parking lots from becoming a jungle of unwanted cars.”
It’s a sentiment that the Pirates still use to defend their actions, even though Cascio sold the company in 1981. A Lincoln driver profiled in Chicago Magazine in 2016 insisted that he was performing a necessary service.
“When you come home and that asshole is in your spot, he ruined your day,” the driver, who used a pseudonym for the profile, stated. “I just made it even.”
Still, public sentiment towards Lincoln is overwhelmingly negative, and it’s easy to see why. Yelp reviewers tell horror stories of their vehicles being towed with pets (or even people!) inside, and one woman documents with photographic evidence that her parking permit had been ripped off of her mirror to justify her vehicle being towed from her own parking spot.
In 2016, two Lincoln Towing drivers (one of whom is a convicted sex offender) faced criminal charges for intentionally knocking a roofer off of a 16-foot ladder when towing his car. The man’s leg was broken and required major surgery to repair.
In 1992, Lincoln Towing owner Steve Mash was charged with possession of stolen vehicles after police detectives witnessed Lincoln employees strip a car they had towed for parts; a subsequent investigation revealed more stolen vehicles in the company’s possession.
This is not even the first time in recent memory the company has been in hot water – they appeared before the ICC back in 2016 for many of the same allegations, but those hearings eventually turned out in their favor; and in 2015, Alderman Ameya Pawar, who is currently running for Governor of Illinois, called for Lincoln to cease operations after a Lincoln employee attacked a concertgoer with a billy club. Most notably perhaps is this viral video from 2015 that shows a Lincoln employee attempting to tow a car with the driver still inside; the driver was able to drive his car off the back of the truck and escape.
It remains to be seen whether or not this fresh round of inquiries will finally put a stop to Lincoln Towing’s abuses. Heather Cherone, a reporter for DNAInfo Chicago who has been covering the story, says that the hearings, which began on July 7, “are expected to continue later this month, and into September.”
Lincoln has not released a statement and did not immediately return a request for comments.
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