The brutal death in Kensington of a tow-truck driver involved in a territory dispute with a fellow operator turned the rough-and-tumble business of wreck-chasing in Philadelphia into a life-and-death struggle. It was bound to happen, and it’s only surprising that a tow-truck driver had not been killed in a confrontation before now.
In July, police said a driver was shot in the leg by another driver, who faces charges in the shooting. The incident was followed by vandalism at both drivers’ companies, including the torching of 13 vehicles at one firm and shots fired at the rival’s offices.
The deadly confrontation early Sunday in which police say Glen McDaniel, 25, repeatedly ran over another driver, Ray Santiago, 30, was fueled, in part, by drinking. But police say it stemmed from a running clash between the men over areas they trolled for accident victims’ vehicles. Their dispute was not uncommon, since tow-truck firms routinely race to be first at the scene of a crash. But with Santiago’s death, city officials have to get far more aggressive about reining in the now-deadly cowboy antics.
Had the city stood behind its 2008 launch of a system for dispatching tow trucks by rotation, tow-truck operators wouldn’t have to do battle for customers. But the Police Department took a hands-off attitude, so the system was little used. Now, City Councilman James F. Kenney has introduced legislation to mandate dispatching tow trucks, along with licensing, and better oversight to weed out rogue operators. New safeguards should be put in place before a feud between tow operators leads to another death.