The tow truck industry in the Toronto area has broken down into a "true Wild West show" dominated by organized crime, police say. Police said Tuesday that 200 charges were filed and 19 arrests were made in an investigation of turf wars between rival operators that have "resulted in murders, attempted murders, shootings, assaults, arsons, threats, and property damage," the CBC reports. Police say tow truck companies were colluding with body shops, car rental companies, and even physiotherapy clinics to "grossly inflate" bills, the Guardian reports. In some cases, rogue tow truck companies deliberately staged collisions to scam insurance companies, police say.
"These actions victimize innocent drivers, insurance companies and, ultimately, all of us, through increased insurance rates," says York Regional Police Supt. Mike Slack . At least four murders and 30 arsons are believe to be connected to the turf war—including a fire at a law firm hired by insurance companies to contest fraudulent claims. Police say that as part of the "Project Platinum" investigation of the industry, they seized 11 tow trucks, more than 40 firearms, and drugs including cocaine and crystal meth, the BBC reports. They say they expect to make dozens more arrests in the months ahead. Police have urged Ontario's government to do more to regulate the towing industry. Currently, only 17 of the province's 444 municipalities require operators to be licensed. (Read more Canada stories.)