Basic Robbery 101—How Not to Be a Victim
By Randall C. Resch
There was a mid-January news article of one incident that I'll categorize as a life lesson.
The event occurred on a stretch of I-70 highway near Columbus, Mo, where a tow operator was attacked after stopping to assist an alleged stranded motorist.
A police department news release stated two men were in a vehicle stopped on the highway's shoulder. Conflicting statements indicated that when the tower stopped to help, a male jumped from the driver's seat and stabbed him in the arm, knocked him out and then stole his wallet.
When the tower regained consciousness, he drove himself to a local hospital where police were called. The tower was expected to make a full recovery.
Tow truck operators are prime victims for these kinds of crimes. With all good intent, you might be thinking breakdown; they are likely to be pondering robbery and auto theft making you the victim.
Bad guys commonly fake vehicle breakdowns as a setup for robbery. Why? Because towers carry money ... just like taxi drivers. This is one of the oldest tricks in Bad Guy 101.
This incident was every bit a setup where the unsuspecting tower stopped and walked right into their bad-guy web. Sure, it could have been some poor unsuspecting motorist thinking, "I can help," but they too would have become a victim of robbery.
In most states, stopping by to help out is called "soliciting," and it's illegal for towers to do so unless certain criteria are followed.
California's Vehicle Code "prohibits a tow truck operator or owner from stopping at the scene of an accident or near a disabled vehicle for the purpose of soliciting an engagement for services, or furnishing any towing services unless summoned to that accident scene or disabled vehicle, or flagged down by the owner or operator of the disabled vehicle or a peace officer."
In other words, simply stopping for a car parked on the side of the highway is a violation, because the tower was neither flagged down nor was an officer present to request a tow truck.
When a "purty girl" is flaggin' you down ... do you simply think, "What a good-lookin' babe," or, did your mind fast-forward and think she's the set-up decoy for robbery? One might think that two males should be able to fend for themselves vs. grandma or mom with three children needing help. Drivers, get smart about seeing the difference.
If you're not called by the police or auto club, ask yourself, "Could this be a robbery and car-jack?" It's really unfortunate that being a Good Samaritan with good intentions leads to these kinds of crimes.
But, in this day and age of rampant crime, a dark, lonely stretch of roadway and no cops or witnesses around is the perfect place for bad guys to rob or assault you. The simple fact that you're driving a tow truck makes you a prime suspect.Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operation's Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line. Randall was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 2014.