Bandit Tow Truck Operators

Recent years have seen the widespread proliferation of so-called “bandit tow truck operators,” a faction of operators within the towing industry that exploit the lack of industry regulations, employ unethical and sometimes illegal business practices and exhibit unprofessional behavior. “Bandit towers” have become the bane of both the towing industry and of law enforcement and are threatening to give all tow truck operators a black eye.

Generally speaking, professional tow truck operators in California are and working, law-abiding citizens who adhere to the highest ethical standards and follow accepted codes of conduct within their local communities. First and foremost, they respond and rescue your vehicle when it’s broken down or been in an accident and will take it wherever you ask them. They make local streets safer and more efficient by responding to city requests, and they help local businesses by reducing illegal parking, which can hurt the revenues of businesses if there is nowhere left to park. Towing is a legitimate business that serves the needs of both the consumer and local government/law enforcement. In sharp contrast, “bandit tow operators” are different from legitimate tow operators, including their practice of monitoring or patrolling private parking lots in order to tow away vehicles.

Police Commission Investigation Division receives complaints from individuals who have had their car towed from private parking by bandit tow operators. The complaints include:

  • The tow operator not having authorization from the property owner to tow the car;
  • The fees to redeem the cars towed are excessive and considerably above what the local municipalities and OPGs are approved to charge. Many times, car owners return to their car to see a bandit truck hooked up to the car and the tow truck driver will not give the individual back their car until they pay a ridiculous fee, a de facto ransom;
  • Towing even when there are no properly posted signs on the property;
  • Unauthorized towing, when neither the property owner nor their agent was present at the property at the time the car was towed and did not authorize the car to be towed. The tow truck company is the “judge and jury” determining which cars gets towed;
  • Bandit tow truck operators are often engaged in “kickbacks” from property owners, property managers and security guards;
  • Predatory towing, where bandit towers patrol and monitor lots to look for cars to tow belonging to innocent citizens;
  • Towing operators who do not accept a credit card, which is required by law

If you have a complaint against a bandit tow company in the City of Los Angeles, please contact the Commission Investigation Division

Los Angeles Police Commission
100 West 1st Street, 1st floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 996-1270