Do taco trucks attract criminals as well as carne asada lovers?

The Friday night fire that hit the popular Taco Zone truck parked perpetually outside the Echo Park Vons market on Alvarado Street has raised worries about taco truck crime. There has been some speculation that the truck was firebombed either by rivals or a gang upset about non payment of protection money. At this point, however, officials don’t know for sure what happened. The LAPD has referred the matter to arson investigators at the fire department.

Are taco trucks magnets for crime as many have claimed? The Taco Zone truck has been robbed before as have other catering trucks. Taco trucks also generate complaints from neighbors about the noise and trash generated by their patrons and exceeding the one-hour parking limit However, for the most part, there is no strong connection between taco trucks and crime, said LAPD Northeast Division Capt. Bill Murphy. He does not know of any specific cases involving extortion or violence between taco truck owners.

“You hear rumors out there that they get extorted or … they are dealing drugs,” Murphy said. “While those are possibilities … they are not a big problem for us.”

Alfredo Magellanez, an advisor to the Asociacion de Loncheros, a group of catering truck owners, said he is not aware of a major problem involving extortion but is checking with the group’s members on the topic.

Even if the reports of arson or extortion prove true, the financial reward of owning a popular truck apparently outweigh the risks. On Saturday night, one day after the fire, the owners of Taco Zone rolled out a second truck and parked it on Alvarado to a long line of customers.

Photo by Betty Hallock via TwitPic

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