This policy brief focuses on a small but especially vulnerable type of transportation business that has been prone to infiltration by organized crime groups through violence, intimidation and corruption: the vehicle-towing services industry.

This type of criminal infiltration has been observed in different countries and it involves violent confrontation and competition for a share of the market. As such, this brief provides an opportunity for a comparison between patterns of infiltration and the use of violence by criminal organizations, as well as a review of law enforcement and policy responses.

Key points:

  • The transportation sector is exceptionally vulnerable to criminal influence. A whole transport business area can be hijacked and exploited by criminal groups for decades without effective countermeasures being deployed to protect it.
  • In many parts of the world, the lucrative towing-services business has been targeted by organized crime and this has led to violent confrontations, sometimes referred to as ‘tow truck wars’.
  • The use of targeted violence and the enforcement of a business cartel is how criminal organizations are exerting control over aspects of the transportation sector, including towing services.
  • The transport industry often occupies a liminal space between the licit and illicit business spheres, which calls for coordinated law and regulatory enforcement at various levels.
  • Effective information exchange between administrative authorities and law enforcement agencies is a prerequisite for a coordinated response to the criminal infiltration of any segment of the transport industry.
  • A proactive and systematic approach to criminal investigation and intelligence gathering is required to mitigate the effects of the criminal exposure of various aspects of the transportation industry.