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Towing chaos must end; City needs to crack down on feeding frenzy at the scene of traffic accidents

Buffalo lawmakers should be rushing to put in place effective legislation that will prevent the "wild west" atmosphere that may have led to the murder of a tow-truck driver last weekend.

Corddaryl Henley, 25, a married father of three, was shot Saturday at Walden Avenue and Latour Street, just east of Martin Luther King Park, after dropping off a vehicle at Latour Auto.

The investigation into his death continues, but troubling accusations about the tow-truck business in the city have come to light since the shooting.

A former employer blames the way in which the city handles the scene of motor vehicle crashes. He described the situation in which tow-truck drivers race to the scene of an accident trying to get the towing work as a feeding frenzy. "It's like fighting for their food out there," Robert Corsi, of Chase Towing, said.

The competition is so intense, Corsi said, that Henley told him that he was threatened with a gun by another tow-truck operator the night before the killing. Corsi said he has been threatened with a knife at a crash scene.

Mike Norris, the owner of Patriarch Towing, where Henley worked at the time of his death, didn't describe such threats to a News reporter but did acknowledge intense verbal exchanges among drivers.

There is little dispute that the towing business in the city would be less chaotic if the city adopts a workable process for specifying which company responds to a crash scene. That procedure, used in most other municipalities, should keep things from getting out of hand.

What's really sad is that the city, according to North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., already has a law on the books, from May 2001. It requires tow-truck operators to be licensed and, therefore, only licensed operators can be called to the scene.

But the law hasn't been applied, Golombek told a reporter, because towing from crash scenes in the city is not a lucrative business. That begs the question as to why the law hasn't been revised. Golombek said he plans to review the ordinance requirements.

Meanwhile, a 40-year-old city law gives the Police Department the power to establish tow zones that would end disputes and improve towing coverage, dispatch efficiency, response time and driver convenience. However, Derenda said, "no police commissioner has opted to enforce" that law because of what he called its legal complexities, which could easily be challenged in court by companies claiming the zones deny them due process.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to spur action, but it shouldn't have taken the murder of Corddaryl Henley to get the city's attention on the issue. The city has twice tried to regulate tow-truck operations in the city, without success. The third try must be successful.