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Tips for getting back a stolen car?
Old 10-20-2007, 01:09 PM   #1
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Tips for getting back a stolen car?

OK, long story short, DW's sister just gets by financially. About 6 months ago SIL smashed up her car (her fault), she had canceled the insurance to save money. So, she still owes on this car and for the damage to the other car. DW buys her a 10 year old minivan so she can get to work and quit hassling their elderly parents.

Yesterday she calls and says her van has been stolen. She now has liability insurance only, so no help there. I suspect that an old minivan with a wheelchair lift was just stolen to ride around in as long as the gas lasts.

The theft has been reported to the police, but I doubt they'll really look for it. Anyone have a tip as to how to find out when and if this van just gets abandoned?
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Old 10-20-2007, 01:15 PM   #2
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The only thing I can think of is to check the local wrecker companies or salvage yards.
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Old 10-20-2007, 01:29 PM   #3
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The only thing I can think of is to check the local wrecker companies or salvage yards.
And when it does get found you just won't believe what the tow company thinks is a reasonable amount to hammer the victim for for towing and storage in a fenced yard.
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Old 10-20-2007, 01:56 PM   #4
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And when it does get found you just won't believe what the tow company thinks is a reasonable amount to hammer the victim for for towing and storage in a fenced yard.
Yea, that is my concern. It may sit for months before she is ever notified.
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Old 10-20-2007, 02:18 PM   #5
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And when it does get found you just won't believe what the tow company thinks is a reasonable amount to hammer the victim for for towing and storage in a fenced yard.
Several years ago, I had a car with about 200k miles on it stolen. The theft was almost certainly for a joy-ride, as the car was left about a mile away from where it was stolen with a nearly empty gas tank.

The company owning the parking lot where the car was left called the police (window was broken, glass all over the interior of the car). The police had the theft report. For some odd reason (), I was not called until after the tow company was called (the police had work/cell/home number). The police contract tow company and the holding yard was located 35 miles away from local police jurisdiction.

Total towing cost: $150.
Cost per day (not pro-rated - 1 minute of storage in the morning counts as a full day) of "storage" in a mostly several acre empty gravel lot: $120.

Minimum cost if I immediately picked up the car (oh - the call from the police came about 20 minutes before the tow company closed the lot for the day (and it was 35 miles away) - at 4pm - even though the car was reported found at 7am that morning): $270. Realistically, $390 because it was impossible to make it to the yard before it closed.

It cost less to replace the damage caused by the kids who stole the car than it did to get my car back from the legal system. Good thing there isn't any corruption in our public "service" entities.
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:37 PM   #6
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Several years ago, I had a car with about 200k miles on it stolen. The theft was almost certainly for a joy-ride, as the car was left about a mile away from where it was stolen with a nearly empty gas tank.
....

It cost less to replace the damage caused by the kids who stole the car than it did to get my car back from the legal system. Good thing there isn't any corruption in our public "service" entities.
LOL and ditto. My car came back with minnows in the back seat and a paper complaining that the car was parked in front of a senior apt. bldg, "it's inconsiderate people like you...." What was really stolen was a tank of gas, almost didn't make it from the storage place to the nearest gas station.
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:52 PM   #7
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What I like best is when the storage garage steals the contents of the car before giving you the bill.
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Old 10-22-2007, 02:24 PM   #8
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What I like best is when the storage garage steals the contents of the car before giving you the bill.
Or their standard line, "you can't have this car, it's stolen!" And watch out for the rottweillers.
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:02 AM   #9
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Update

To close out this thread, I'm posting an update. SIL's 10 yo minivan had been stolen and I was wondering how long before it would show up.

The answer is never. I can only guess that these minivans were popular enough that it got dismantled for parts. My initial thought was that it would be parked when it ran out of gas and the joy riders fled.

SIL threw herself on the mercy of her church and they popped for $5000 which I used to buy her another used minivan, this one has the anti theft chip in the key, so it will be harder to steal.
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:21 AM   #10
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At least the ending was semi-positive. Great that the church helped out.
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Old 09-02-2008, 11:52 AM   #11
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To close out this thread, I'm posting an update. SIL's 10 yo minivan had been stolen and I was wondering how long before it would show up.

The answer is never. I can only guess that these minivans were popular enough that it got dismantled for parts. My initial thought was that it would be parked when it ran out of gas and the joy riders fled.

SIL threw herself on the mercy of her church and they popped for $5000 which I used to buy her another used minivan, this one has the anti theft chip in the key, so it will be harder to steal.
Who the heck would steal a minivan??
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Old 09-02-2008, 03:33 PM   #12
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Who the heck would steal a minivan??
After it was stolen I did some research on the internet - it was one of the most stolen vehicles in this area. I can only guess that it has a design defect that makes it easy to steal (by kids) or had parts interchangeable enough over several model years that there was a big market for the parts.
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Old 09-02-2008, 06:14 PM   #13
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The company owning the parking lot where the car was left called the police (window was broken, glass all over the interior of the car). The police had the theft report. For some odd reason (), I was not called until after the tow company was called (the police had work/cell/home number).
There is a reason for that. The officer who takes the report of the recovered stolen car almost certainly does not have access to your phone numbers at the time. He/she is in a patrol car. Radio traffic is (usually) way too heavy to justify him asking someone at the station to go to a file cabinet and look it up. (Those desk clerks are usually pretty busy too.) If he leaves to look up your phone numbers and the car is taken again, you get mad at him for leaving it unguarded.

Therefore, the procedure is to secure the car by having it towed to a known place where it will be safe from further theft or vandalism and then notify the owner.

Regarding towing fees - ever check out the cost of owning and maintaining one of those tow trucks? They ain't cheap.
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Old 09-02-2008, 08:32 PM   #14
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Who the heck would steal a minivan??
A couple years ago my coworker woke up, got ready for work, went out to hop on his Ninja, and it was gone.

He called the cops, and they said they had been waiting for his call. They had gotten a couple of others that morning. The first one was from a family that had a bunch of minivan seats in their yard, and the second was from the people who's minivan was missing.

So they saw the bike, stole the neighbor's minivan, tossed out the back seats, loaded in the bike, and off they went! None of it was ever recovered, afaik.
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Old 09-02-2008, 09:43 PM   #15
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Daughter's car was towed twice in DC--first time when she was out of town and no-parking signs were posted while she was gone, second time when her car was totalled by a hit and run (arrested three blocks away). First time she didn't get charged for the towing, second time insurance company took care of it. Now son's little escapade that ended up in his car being towed was quite different, but for him the cost of retrieving the car was a lesson well learned ....
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:14 PM   #16
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There is a reason for that. The officer who takes the report of the recovered stolen car almost certainly does not have access to your phone numbers at the time. He/she is in a patrol car. Radio traffic is (usually) way too heavy to justify him asking someone at the station to go to a file cabinet and look it up. (Those desk clerks are usually pretty busy too.) If he leaves to look up your phone numbers and the car is taken again, you get mad at him for leaving it unguarded.

Therefore, the procedure is to secure the car by having it towed to a known place where it will be safe from further theft or vandalism and then notify the owner.

Regarding towing fees - ever check out the cost of owning and maintaining one of those tow trucks? They ain't cheap.
Walt,

Although I do appreciate your insight into why this situation may have occurred, it sounds way too much like excusing incompetent (unwritten?) policy or practice. From my perspective, if policies don't function, they should be fixed.

And excuses for such problems are a quick and easy way to alienate law enforcement from the jurisdictional populace.

As a case study, I'll use my own experience:
1) Police did not dust for prints on car. No excuse.

2) Report of abandoned vehicle taken before 8am, vehicle towed before 9am (would arrive at "storage" lot around 10am). Lot hours were 10am-4:30pm. Call arrived from lot (nothing from police at all) after 4pm that car was present. No excuse.

3) Lot storage fees for acres of open gravel = $120/day. I could valet park at a hotel in a major metropolitan area for less than that. No excuse.

4) Lot was located 35 miles from city jurisdiction. Other local police PDs/sheriff offices use closer facilities. No excuse.

5) Police vehicles all had laptop computers and were capable of looking up stolen vehicle reports (corroborated with another local department). No excuse.

I could continue on in this vein, but think that these points adequately illuminate systemic failures in how the situation was handled.

And when there are such failures, I think it is necessary to admit those failures, figure out what went wrong, and address them.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:17 AM   #17
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Who the heck would steal a minivan??
Professional car thieves steal cars for one of three reasons: To dismantle and sell the parts, to resell after changing the vehicles identification numbers, or for export to a foreign country. When I was an auto theft detective, the #1 stolen vehicle for several years was a minivan. They stole them and removed the seats which were then sold to a fence that masqueraded as a used parts dealer. The theft of the seats created a demand, and the demand was filled by the fences. Sometimes people wound up buying their own seats back when they went shopping for replacements. We fixed that problem, but auto thieves are a crafty lot, and they are always looking for a weakness in the system that they can exploit.
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There is a reason for that. The officer who takes the report of the recovered stolen car almost certainly does not have access to your phone numbers at the time. He/she is in a patrol car. Radio traffic is (usually) way too heavy to justify him asking someone at the station to go to a file cabinet and look it up. (Those desk clerks are usually pretty busy too.) If he leaves to look up your phone numbers and the car is taken again, you get mad at him for leaving it unguarded.
Our policy on this changed frequently. If manpower wasn't a problem (that almost never happened) then we would ask one of the back channel dispatchers to try and contact the owner. If they could be there in 30 minutes we would wait. But that was only if the car was drivable (they often are not), or not sitting someplace where it would be dangerous or impractical to wait. If manpower was at a premium and calls were holding, the priority is to tow the car and start responding to calls again. People asking for the police to come now have a much higher priority to making a recovery a convenience.
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:40 AM   #18
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About 6 months ago SIL smashed up her car (her fault), she had canceled the insurance to save money. So, she still owes on this car and for the damage to the other car.
Maybe it is better she does not have a car - it would be better for her (and her family?) and others on the road.
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Old 09-03-2008, 10:58 AM   #19
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1) Police did not dust for prints on car. No excuse.
Based on my experience with a variety of crimes such as stolen cars, homes broken into and assaults (hey...people I know, not crimes I committed!) television shows have completely screwed up peoples expectations of what the police will do to solve a case.

After watching a whole squad of highly trained professionals who apparently never do paperwork all coordinate to chase down a "hunch" from a minor misdemeanor where they get fingerprint matches on their computers in ten minutes and a full DNA test with matching done in fifteen, the average joe expects the same sort of action in real life.

In cases I've been involved in where property was stolen or broken into there were no fingerprints taken. Too expensive, too time consuming and not a serious enough crime to warrant it was the explanation.

Heck, I had a friend who went into her apartment to find a burglar who whacked her on the head and ran. She had to call 3 times to get someone to come over and take fingerprints. They finally did and eventually did identify the guy. About two months later.

I wonder how much this huge gap between tv show inspired expectations and reality affects court cases and juries.
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Old 09-03-2008, 11:01 AM   #20
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Who the heck would steal a minivan??
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... that there was a big market for the parts.
What Leo said.

In 2006, one of Hawaii's most-stolen cars was the 1990 Honda Civic sedan. And it wasn't just for the spiffy handling...
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