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They're known as chasers, scavengers and renegades, and they roam the streets looking for unsuspecting prey.

No, they're not muggers and purse snatchers.

The offenders, in this case, are a handful of towing companies. And City Hall is threatening to crack down.

"There's chaos out there," said Sammy Buscarino of Sammy's Auto Repair & Collision on West Tupper Street. "You go to an accident, and there's five tow trucks already there."

The towing industry has become highly competitive with so-called "chasers" using police scanners to identify accident sites and posting themselves in high-traffic areas during rush hour.

According to Buscarino, the towing industry in Buffalo is in desperate need of regulation -- similar to what the suburbs have had for years.

The alternative, he said, is to let accident victims fall prey to companies charging outrageous prices or funneling cars to repair shops that do the same.

Buscarino tells one horror story after another of towing companies that show up at accident scenes and take advantage of confused or upset victims.

Masten Council Member Byron Brown has responded by proposing a new set of requirements for towing companies, along with a licensing fee.

"We're just looking to regulate this service as a way of protecting innocent victims," he said.

Brown wants to require that each company post its fee schedule on the truck and inform customers of those fees before towing any vehicles.

He also wants minimum equipment requirements for all trucks and regular on-site inspections of garages and shops that do towing in the city.

"I support it 100 percent," said Dave Cole, owner of Occhino Towing, one of the city's oldest towing companies. "Anything that can bring the towing industry from the dark ages to the profession it is today is a good idea."

Brown's proposal, which was sent to committee for further debate, asks city lawyers to draft an ordinance regulating towing companies.

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