Some Chicago drivers who have had their cars towed got a little victory this week after the Illinois Commerce Commission, a state oversight agency, revoked the license of Lincoln Towing Service.
The ICC has received thousands of complaints about the company over the years. ICC spokeswoman Victoria Crawford said the agency launched an investigation in 2016 based on those complaints. She said that between July 2015 and March 2016, the ICC found evidence of more than 800 illegal property seizures.
"Lincoln Towing Service has not conducted its business with honesty and integrity and is unworthy to hold a commercial vehicle relocators' license," she said.
The company's bad reputation spans decades. Steve Goodman even wrote a song about them in 1972 called "Lincoln Park Pirates."
"To me way, hey. Tow them away. We plunder the streets of your town," he sang.
Lincoln Towing did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. But at a 2016 hearing before a Chicago city council committee, attorney Allen Perl, who has represented Lincoln Towing for more than 20 years, made it clear he was not a fan of the song.
"If you want to get something resolved with Lincoln Towing, don't cite the Lincoln Towing song to me. That doesn't mean anything to me. My client was 10 years old at the time," he said.
The current ownership took over the company in 1993. In official papers, Perl said the business is fit to operate.
William Rankin, a retired school principal, begged to differ. He owns a commercial property on Chicago's North Side. He once had a contract with Lincoln Towing to manage his small parking lot.
"The contract clearly stated that I had to be on the spot, show them the car and point it out before they towed it," he said.
Rankin wasn't stingy about the lot. He allowed young workers from a nearby barbecue eatery to park there. Lincoln Towing hauled their cars away without his permission.
"These are kids that are working for minimum wage, and for them to come up with $200 to retrieve their car was just terrible," he said.
Rankin said it got even worse. He let an elderly neighbor who was undergoing cancer treatment park behind his building. Lincoln took that car, too.
"It was wintertime and the snow was about a foot and a half, 2 feet deep, and he had to get on two buses to go down and retrieve his car and of course, pay the $200 and some dollars they charged him," he said.
Rankin said the company promised reimbursements, but the checks didn't come.
"I think that was their modus operandi, too. If someone complained, they'd make a promise and just not follow through on the promise. These people were thieves, and there's no other way to put it," he said.
Rankin's experience is similar to hundreds of others who filed complaints against Lincoln Towing. He was overjoyed when the ICC unanimously voted 5-0 to revoke Lincoln's relocators' license this week.
But the saga isn't quite over yet. There's a line in the "Lincoln Park Pirates" song that goes, "no one can make us shut down." The company has requested a rehearing with the ICC, and it's filed a motion in Cook County court to resume operations while the commission decides to whether to review the case.
Rankin said he's willing to continue the fight. But in the meantime, he no longer contracts with a towing company to oversee his private lot. He simply leaves a note for violators.