There's an interesting case surrounding dollar vans in Brooklyn right now. Last week, a dollar van (aka a commuter van - check out this definition) hit a 56 year old woman, and the driver did get out, but left after seeing her in the street (the woman suffered a broken pelvis, legs, and ribs). And in the course of the police investigation, the police found a posting on craigslist seemingly written by one of the passengers on the van, saying the passengers wouldn't reveal anything about the incident, - the driver is unlicensed, he doesn't want to be thrown in jail. So now the police are blitzing dollar vans with tickets in order to find out more about the hit-and-run. Van companies are saying that they are being targeted because they are immigrant businesses and police know they are "helpless," but given the police's aggressiveness to bike riders, is this kind of ticket biltz so surprising when they are trying to find a hit-and-run driver?
Most drivers are immigrants and many riders are people who need to get to places subways and buses may not or find themselves waiting too long for buses, so they do provide employment and a service. The problem can be that, yes, the some drivers are unlicensed and many vans are uninsured or uninspected, since the city doesn't regulate all of them. Here's a 2004 article about dollar van extortion in Chinatown - these vans flourish in immigrant communities.