By on April 19, 2018

parking lot

A phone that could only have been lost through the intervention of some kind of malevolent, omnipotent force leads us to today’s question. We’re not concerned with missing cellular devices, of course, no matter how much this author now loathes O’Hare airport — no, there’s a good chance many of you have had the same thing occur with a prized, or perhaps not so prized vehicle.

Which of you have known the pain of seeing your vehicle on the side of a milk carton?

We’ll broaden this question to include all types of disappearances. Anything that inspired sweat beads and heart palpitations, regardless of how long or short the duration, applies. Perhaps your vehicle was spirited away by slim jim-wielding thieves or, if the car in question was a 1980s FWD Chrysler, screwdriver-wielding thieves.

Maybe you parked in the wrong spot and ended up searching the impound lot in a dishevelled state, or perhaps the repo man finally caught up to you. As we saw on Seinfeld, one’s own faulty memory, combined with the soulless, concrete expanse of the modern parking garage, can lead to frustration and unplanned exercise. Badge engineering could easily aggravate the situation, leading to false hope and dead ends. (“Damn, it’s just a LeSabre … or is that a Ninety Eight?”)

How ’bout it, B&B? Did you ever lose (one of) your most precious possessions this way, or is there an even wilder story you’d like to tell us?

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41 Comments on “QOTD: Missing in Action?...”

  • avatar

    Several years ago I had 84 Trans AM, I was also a restaurant owner. An ex GF called in a somewhat distress state and my current GF who had answered the phone, suggested I go and calm her down. Needless to say at 2AM and exhausted I crashed on the EX’s couch. Next morning,she was already gone to law school, I let myself out and go to get my car in the parking lot of the apt building. You guessed it, no car. Now before cell phones and a limited amount of change on me I first call the police, from a pay phone then I call people to come and get me cause I have to open my restaurant. Of Course the only one around to come and get me is the current GF. As I’m sitting in the police car I mentioned my predicament and the officer said oh here comes one really pissed off GF. Needless to say I had a lot of splaining to do Lucy. 30 years later I still talk to the two of them, but keep them far apart. The trans am broad sided some poor sole in Newark, and was totaled,and I had a lot of explaining to do to the authorities. At least I was insured.

  • avatar

    My beloved 1966 Pontiac Parisienne disappeared from my my wife work place. At the time the car was 13 years old and just about any GM key could start it.
    Theft insurance??? Right! We could barely swing the bare minimum insurance required by law. I called the Police at least twice a day. I think the Sergeant got pi$$ed off and sent some rookie cop to go find this “A$$___s

    Yup.. it turned up. The Pioneer KP 5000 cassette deck missing. The thieves had punched out the truck lock.. (I couldn’t of done a neater job myself) My wife absolutely refused to drive it again, and life goes on.

    My wife “forgot” that she drove her 2003 Jimmy to work in downtown Toronto, and instead took the train home. I was shocked that it didn’t get towed and compounded .. The parking bill ……Ouch !!!

    • 0 avatar

      When my car was towed once in the early 80’s, the stereo was stolen from it by the tow yard employees. They also checked for a four-barrel carb, and not finding one, simply tossed the air filter cover on top unfastened. Had there been a holley double pumper on the engine, I guarantee it would also be missing when I got to the yard. Of course, I could prove nothing so had to simply pay up and move on.

  • avatar

    Yep, that sinking feeling. I had several of these back in the 1980s.
    At the begining of that decade a friend’s old VW squareback that I borrowed for a few days was not at the curb one morning. It was recovered in the same condition that it left minus a tankful of gas and plus a baseball bat on the floor. It was gone for a week.
    About four years later I was out to dinner with some friends in Malibu. When it was time to leave, my car was not where I parked it. I followed the advice of the friend who owned the VW. Wait a few days and go to the police station with the title papers. The car was in a tow yard and had been picked up, minus wheels and tires, the morning after it was stolen. When I went to get it I found that the radio and speakers were gone. Probably taken by someone at the tow yard.
    About 6 years after that the S. O.s Toyota was gone from in front of the same house. Also recovered a few days later with a small hole in the door where the thieves had unlocked the door and a broken ignition lock.
    Going to the police can save a lot of money in impound/storage charges as opposed to waiting for a notice to be mailed to the registered owner. This may work differently today with electronic communication.

  • avatar

    In 1972, I bought a 1969 Z/28 Camaro as I headed off to college. Those cars were a dime a dozen then; I paid $2100 for a car with 24,000 miles on the odometer. One night in the summer of ’74, my girlfriend, some other friends, and I went out for pizza in College Park, Maryland. Came outside afterwards to find nothing but a small pile of broken tempered glass in the space where my car had been parked.

    Police found it a couple of weeks later, totally stripped of everything. Apparently there was an organized ring of thieves specializing in high performance cars operating locally at the time. I never found out whether they were identified, arrested, and convicted.

    As I recall, my insurance company paid me $1300 for the loss. Went out and promptly bought a new 1974 Trans Am. Not a bad car (although my view has always been that the 1974 model year was peak malaise for the auto industry in America), but I really missed that Z/28.

    • 0 avatar

      If 1974 was the peak malaise year, it wasn’t only the cars being produced then that made it so; it was the imposition of the national 55-mph speed limit. Imagine being stopped by a state trooper for going 60 on the PA Turnpike – it happened to me (I only got a warning, luckily – still recall the trooper’s car, too, a ’73 Plymouth Fury coupe).

  • avatar

    Thanksgiving Break 2002 Southfield, MI – car theft capital of the world (at the time) I was living up on 13 mile/Telegraph area, apartment complex. I was in Ohio at the (now-x) in-laws. Came home late on Sunday, didn’t even look at the parking lot. Got up Monday Morning and could not find my 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan (307 V8, positrac, opera lights… etc.)

    Southfield cops came out and took the report. Insurance company said “not found in 28 days we’ll just pay it out.” 28 days later it was found in a back alley in Detroit stripped to just the frame remaining (fortunately having a vin tag on it for identification purposes.)

    Given the age and mileage the guy did me a favor when I got the $2000 check.

    I still miss the toolbox that was in the trunk. That was my lifetime accumulation of tools up to that point.

    • 0 avatar

      “1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan”

      Detroit Gold!

      • 0 avatar

        The security guard at the school I was working at was an ex-cop (Detroit PD) – crooked as the day is long. Drove a Harley, a Viper, had his wife in a 12 cyl BMW… Was looking into prices on Navigators to make it easier to get to his property upstate when the weather was nasty.

        The first day of school he took one look at my car and said: “That’s a Drug Runnin’ car.”

        I should be surprised it lasted a year and a half before being stolen.

  • avatar

    At my previous job, 20-odd years ago, we parked in a private lot and had mirror hang tags to prove we could park there. This was in the heart of the Old Port, the bar section of Portland Maine. So one Friday night when I was on call I had a client issue that I needed to go in for. So I drove over to the office, and parked my ’85 Peugeot 505S in the lot as usual. Hang tag right there on the mirror, as usual. Come out of the office about 1am – car is GONE. Call the tow company that patrols the lot (who would steal an ’85 Pug?). “Yes, we have the car, it was parked illegally in such-and-so-lot”. Uh, would you mind looking in the car, there is a mirror tag that very clearly shows that my company PAYS for me to be able to park in that lot 24×7. “Oh, sorry sir, our driver figured since it was Friday night it wouldn’t be a client and didn’t even look(!?!?!?!)”. They came and got me and took me to the car, which was fine. Needless to say, I was a tad peeved at the situation.

  • avatar

    My wife and I were newly married and were tight on cash, but my Father-in-Law had given us my wife’s late grandfather’s 1996 Concorde LXi to help us. It had only 30K miles on it.

    Being tight on cash, we decided, since it still had valid plates just to drive the car for while before we would transfer the title & get new plates.

    Well, I took the car for a oil change on a Sunday afternoon and after paying the bill, went home. The next day, I drove to work (in Detroit). Parked the car and since I had brown bagged my lunch, I didn’t leave work till around 5pm. Guess what???? NO CAR!

    Checked security cameras and sure enough we see a guy walk down the parking lot and a minute or two later it drives away. NO ONE in my office even noticed or commented about my lack of car…

    Called Detroit Police and State Farm (my insurance company). Had to file a police report. My wife picked me up and we went down to the station. Well, one question asked was: Who’s name was the car titled to? We answered the name of the late grandfather. “Well, he needs to appear to file the report”.

    “HOW?? HE’S DEAD!!!” We explained the story of why, but no luck… Now, my Father-in-Law has to come down with the death certificate and title. Police take the report, file and I wait…..

    After about two months without a car and numerous calls we find out that the funds are on hold because of the title issue. Title needs to be in my wife or my name. We take time off of work, transfer the title and wait….

    Another month of no action finally determines a new issue. Because it’s stolen, the state will not transfer the title and State Farm will not release the funds till the title is transferred. Meanwhile, my wife is driving me to work every day and my father is driving me home..

    Finally, after 6+ months of this drama, the paperwork is completed. I am told that State Farm will release about $4K for the value of the car. “The car is worth more than that” Per State Farm, I have to find a nearly identical car (year/make/model/trim and mileage within a 60 day window and within 150 miles) to get a reevaluation of the value. Remember, I had an oil change, so the mileage was a fact.


    State Farm then paid the proceeds to my wife’s grandfather’s estate! So the insurance I paid I only received about $1500.

    Final insult was that the Detroit Police called me about two months after settlement stating that they had recovered the car. I inquired about buying it, but I was told that the crooks had ground off almost all of the VIN numbers (in an attempt to swap titles and resell it). since it was tampered, the car must be destroyed…


  • avatar

    This has happened to me a number of times in Ann Arbor, but it’s not thieves, it’s the cops. Taking cars for 6 unpaid parking tickets, or from parking places with deceptive signs (No Parking sign behind a tree, or shadowed at night by a light, or 24 hour enforcement, but no sign).

    It’s easy to get 6 unpaid tickets here. When I was in school in the 80s (my 2nd time around), all the classes in art school were 2 hours. But the meters in the lots were only good for an hour and a half. Just before the end of class, the meter maids cruised the lot and gave out tickets by the bushel.

    You would think you are safe from a parking ticket inside the parking structures, but you would be wrong. “Compact Car Only” signs are often hidden among the parking spaces, usually shadowed by lights at night, or sun in the day. Cops cruise the structures just for this.

    Street parking is 24 hours max. In neighborhoods where few houses have driveways, this is like shooting fish in a barrel for cops. 2 days and your car is gone. There was recently a high profile case in Ann Arbor, where a late model Lexus was towed away after 3 days as “abandoned”. The owner lost the case, had to pay up to get his car back.

    I once parked in a campus lot with no meters. During the day, meters were installed, and I got a ticket. I went to court on this one, and lost. Parking and traffic violations are civil offenses in Michigan, so it is almost impossible to appeal. Actually going to court is very difficult. I spent far more time and money than the ticket was worth just because I was so angry. Learned not to be angry.

    So yes, I have seen my car disappear, many times. People don’t even get too upset about it anymore.

  • avatar

    I lived in center-city Philadelphia 1978-82 and parked my ’66 Bonneville convertible on the street, having no other choice. It vanished after 2 years of street parking and was finally discovered by police a month later in South Philly. All the insurance money went to parts replacement and mechanical repairs, and I kept on driving it, with some messed-up sheetmetal, for more than another 10 years (although eventually I did replace the convertible top). Before the car went missing, the motor and transmission had recently been rebuilt by a community college tech class and were in great shape, plus I’d bought an AAMCO warranty for the length of car ownership. So there was still a lot left to enjoy despite the banged-up fenders and punched-out trunk lock. Plus it was no longer attractive to thieves…

    A few years later I bought a parts car and had front fenders, trunk lock, other body parts (including a front bumper) removed and stored; in 1991 these parts were sold along with the car when I realized I’d never undertake the restoration myself.

  • avatar

    ’81 Buick Regal stolen out of my garage. Hot July night, neglected to close the garage door. We had just bought this car from a wholesaler, and it hadn’t been detailed yet, which explains why I drove it home. Then things got weird. Called it into the Police, and the conversation went something like this:

    “Oh, that’s a ’79 Country Squire.”

    me: “No, it’s a ’81 Buick Regal. Gold and Brown two-tone.”

    “Well the plates are registered to a ’79 Country Squire. Are you sure that isn’t what the car was?

    me: “I’m in the car biz… I know the difference between a Regal Coupe and a Country Squire.”

    After a bit more research by the dealership and the Police, it was discovered that the Regal was… wait for it… stolen. As in, before it made it into my garage.

    Good times!

  • avatar

    I once visited downtown Indianapolis, probably on a Friday night. I know I went to the Circle City Mall, probably to play some games in their huge arcade. Well, when I came out, my car was gone. So was every other car on the “circle” downtown. It was 5-10 minutes after 9, and I needed to get home, which was an hour away (Anderson or Richmond, I can’t remember which.)

    I found the towing company’s number, and they told me where my car was towed. It was walk-able, but just barely. I arrived, paid the fine (I remember it having 3 digits, in the $100s), and I was on my way home, probably after 11pm.

    Moral of the story, make sure to look at parking signs when parking. They clearly said no parking after 9pm where I parked.

  • avatar

    1) In the Chicago area, the I-294 tollway oases straddle the tollway perpendicular. There are entrances at either end for Northbound and Southbound traffic. It’s very easy to get turned around while inside and walk out the wrong entrance and not see your car.

    2) My late father was fond of yard sales and garage sales in his retirement. After a day of scoping out deals he would forget where he parked. I spent many a weekend driving him around looking for his car! LOL

  • avatar

    In 1994 I had an ’87 CRX Si. I parked it on the street in a well-to-do neighborhood in Seattle to visit friends. My then-girlfriend arrived later in her car and parked behind mine.

    She left the party before I did. When I went to leave, my CRX was gone. It had a car alarm, but for some reason I hadn’t activated it. The car was found the next day across town, relieved of all its front sheet metal, seats, wheels, stereo, etc. I assume a chop shop had “Honda CRX” on its shopping list, and my car was the unlucky theft target.

    The irony is that when my girlfriend left the party, got in her car, and drove away, it didn’t even register in her brain that my car, which she had parked directly behind, was gone.

  • avatar

    My first car, a major POS ’81 Mustang GLX (inline 6, auto, coupe), was stolen right out of my driveway. The only clue left behind was the broken glass from the drivers side window. I had gone to a party the night before, then had to get up early for work the next day. So there were a few moments of hung over head scratching when I thought I might have been too drunk and someone else had driven me home. But nope… someone just took the car. I still lived with my parents in a pretty nice neighborhood at the time too so it was shocking. As mentioned the car was rubbish so I assume it was stolen for stereo system because the amps, EQ and speakers were worth more then the car.

    The car was never recovered. A constant joke with my brother is that anytime we are fishing and get a hung up on the bottom he claims to have hooked my Mustang. My parents were not amused by any of this because they never covered the car for thief due to its age and crappy condition. As a result it was a total loss. I was actually happy because I hated the stupid thing and got the car I really wanted – a Civic S 1500 hatch as a replacement.

    • 0 avatar

      There was a guy at my high school who had a 4 cyl Mustang LX hatch (late 80s early 90s model) with a killer stereo and enough crap festooned to it to make it a GT look-a-like.

      We all got a big laugh out of his “all hat, no cattle” Mustang.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    First serious ‘date’ with a new girlfriend later to become my spouse.

    Downtown Toronto, fancy steakouse. Parked in the underground lot of City Hall. Took nearly one hour to remember where I had parked the car.

    Working as a P.I. Took a case on behalf of an insurance company. One of their adjusters would tip off a couple of friends with tow trucks who would ‘remove’ vans/trucks that were owned/operated by businesses that they insured. When ‘found’ (usually by the same tow truck operators) this adjuster would mark them as ‘write offs’. The insurance company would pay the business so the business owner had no complaints. The vehicles would be towed to a couple of bodyshops/used car lots which would then arrange to buy them as salvage/parts vehicles, do a quick re-spray, change the VIN’s and sell them. The car lot owners and the adjuster were convicted. The body shop and tow truck operators received ‘wrist slaps’. One of my favourite cases as it broke the monotony of divorce and workers compensation/disability claims cases.

    • 0 avatar

      There used to be a Russian car theft ring operating in the Seattle area that ran a similar scam.

      They would steal a car, strip a bunch of parts off of it, then abandon the hulk somewhere. The unwitting insurance company would pay off the owner, then sell the car at auction. Guess who shows up to buy it? So now that they have legal title to the car, they take it back to their shop, put the parts back on it, and sell it as “rebuilt”.

  • avatar

    My beloved and well-cared-for ’84 Honda CRX was stolen out of a company lot in 1993 while I was gone for an overnight company trip. The police duly wrote up a report while I despondently went to a local rent-a-wreck to rent an old Tercel sh!tbomb to drive while awaiting the insurance money. The money took well over a month to process, but a co-worker kindly loaned me his red ’72 Volvo 1800ES so I didn’t have to keep paying for the Toyota. One day I got a phone call – my CRX had been found in a field. Though it still started up and drove, the bodywork had been bashed and spray-painted black and the interior was in stinky tatters. I could have cried. The police didn’t even bother taking fingerprints – this was 1990s Miami after all. The insurance company declared it a total loss. When I finally got a replacement car (a 1990 Civic LX 5-speed sedan), I returned my friend’s Volvo washed, waxed, and with a full tank of gas, plus I gave him my Macintosh Color Classic. Even after all this time, I still miss the CRX.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    My early middle-aged crisis vehicle was a 1993 Chevy Silverado, beige on beige, stolen two weeks after I got it from in front of my Lincoln Park home in Chicago. It was parked on the street because my wife had a “project” going on in the garage over the weekend. It was an odd feeling to walk out of the house and not see the truck where I had thought I parked it. Looked up and down the street thinking I might have misremembered. Nope. Looked down and saw the broken glass. Uh oh.

    It was eventually found a week later on the Near West side riding on four baldies with everything that could be removed taken out including a very expensive topper. Basically the only item left in the interior was the milk crate the driver sat on to dump it. Very professional job – not a scratch on it. The insurance company opted to fix it rather than total it which cost nearly as much as I paid for it.

    On the bright side, the cops said I was lucky to have it stolen while parked and not car jacked. Some criminals had likely spotted it driving around and needed the fairly uncommon interior color for a specific project so were going to get it however they needed to.

  • avatar

    Last year my daughter was staying at a condo complex (Airbnb) in Tucson near UofA. She goes out in the morning looking for her car and it is gone. She finds out that it was towed because she was not authorized to park in the complex. She was and had proof. The towing company didn’t care and wanted several hundred dollars to release the car.
    She was lucky that one of her friends there is an attorney. They both went to get the car and only paid the minimum fee allowed by law(approx $50). The condo complex, condo owner and Airbnb were also handled successfully.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to wonder if other owners in the condo complex were not happy about the person renting out their place as an air bnb and called to get the car towed as retribution. Many condo complexes have rules that limit the number of units that can be rented (to keep the complex FHA approved under the old regulations) and even if they don’t limit the number of rentals they usually don’t allow rentals of less than 30 days.

  • avatar

    Thankfully I’ve never had a vehicle stolen, but I recently had the license plates stolen off of my truck in January. I had taken my car to the store one Monday morning and as I pulled into my driveway upon my return I noticed the front license plate was missing. As I drove past it to the car’s spot I saw the rear plate was missing too. Then about 2 weeks ago we got a call at about 10:30 at night. My wife answered and it was a police officer from a not exactly close by city saying that they had pulled over a white pickup and the plates came back to me. My wife handed me the phone and the officer asked if I could go look at my truck to see it it still had the license plates. I told him that they had been stolen in late January and that I did replace them. I should have asked if the truck he stopped was a Ford or some other brand. I do have to wonder why the system didn’t show the plate as canceled at least since I had in the mean time replaced the plates and told the person at the license agency that I was doing so because the plates were stolen. At least I know now that the plates have been recovered and there is a chance that the perp got some sort of punishment. I do have to wonder if the person had went shopping for the right truck to steal the plates from. We live in a not exactly cheap neighborhood that has only one road leading in and out. The truck because it is so long gets backed in and left along the side of the driveway near the street so it is away from the house a bit and visible from the street. However given the neighborhood you just don’t get people driving by who don’t live in here or who aren’t visiting someone.

    The other theft was again not of the entire vehicle, it was the canopy for another pickup. I had to purchase some bulk material, I think bark, so the canopy was removed and set next to the garage. Unfortunately I didn’t put it back on and unlike my current house it was on the corner and the street on the side is a busy one, so lots of traffic drives by and it was plainly visible. I did see it on a Toyota pickup several months later but was unable to get the license plate of the truck and by that time I’d got my check from the insurance company and I know that lame police dept wouldn’t have done anything about it anyway.

  • avatar

    All these stories about losing your car, and only 1 is about the cops taking it.
    In Ann Arbor, i don’t think we have an car thieves. It’s always the cops who take your car away.

  • avatar

    I knew a woman who reported her car stolen to the police and was a couple days into dealing with the insurance company when she happened to be back at the bar where she had drunkenly left her car several days before. She once called her roommate crying that she was lost somewhere in the city and she needed to be picked up. Her roommate walked out of their house to find her parked in front. She had a bit of a problem. Minus the drinking the former anecdote was the plot of an episode of “The Middle”.

  • avatar

    Thankfully, I’ve had only one vehicle disappear on me. In the early 2000’s on a business trip to Knoxville, after working late I found a sports pub that was still serving food. I seated myself at the bar and began chatting up some folks to my right about the NBA Championship series playing on the TV. I recall that on my left was a waitress station – which also served as the spot where everyone walked up to order drinks, etc. Being the young fool that I was at the time, I left the keys to my rented white Jeep Liberty (a dreadful vehicle) on the bar just to my left in plain view.

    An hour later when I got up to leave, I couldn’t find my keys. I knew what to expect next. I’d parked straight out the front door of the pub. The Liberty was gone. Due to my stupidity, I more/less handed the vehicle to the perpetrator.

    The National Car Rental key tag had the description and license #. Easy pickings. They just went outside, walked up to the Jeep, clicked the fob to unlock it, got in and left.

    In an even dumber move, I left my backpack in the vehicle with just about every electronic/mobile device once could carry in those days: cell phone, palm-pilot, digital camera, ipod, and laptop.

    I walked 2 miles back to my hotel and filed a police report. Next, I called National Car Rental and reported the car as stolen. The agent was unfazed. Her only questions were: “Do you remember the mileage and fuel-level?” followed by, “do you want to book another reservation?”

    I have to admit that in light of my situation, that made me laugh. I needed a laugh.

  • avatar

    I had two loosely related episodes.

    One, coming back to a huge parking lot in Hannover, Germany, with the sinking realization I hadn’t memorized the plates of the (company) car, a tornado red, current model, two-door, basic-equipped Golf with Hannover plates, of which kind I had to check a dozen or so before finding “mine”.

    Two, getting into a (borrowed) Passat after work, starting the engine and feeling complete and utter confusion upon hearing Diesel clatter instead of the expected petrol-engine hum. Solution: wrong car — same type, colour, year, trim, and obviously key, but different engine, plates, and of course owner.

    The scary part lies in the combination: What if I’d found a different-but-identical Golf with the same key code in the first story? I might have driven it back completely oblivious. And, it being a company car, no-one might have noticed for an undefined period of time …

  • avatar

    The year was 1998. I had just bought my ’95 Alfa 164 Quadrifoglio, and parked my beloved ’91 Integra GS Sedan and put it up for sale.

    Black w/Black gut and 5 -speed. I loved that Acura. 187K miles with no problems.

    Came home from work, and noticed it was gone. Hmmm…

    Went inside, found my wife in the tub, and asked, “Where’s the Acura?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “It’s gone”

    “What do you mean, ‘It’s gone’?”

    Me, dialing 911 – “It’s NOT IN THE DRIVEWAY!”

    Stolen. Police in Dekalb County, GA don’t even come to your house if your car is stolen. “Call back in the morning and make a report”

    Called in the morning and filed a report. “Someone will call you”

    Later that day (now 24 hours after it was stolen), I finally got a call.

    “No, we don’t come to your house to investigate. We’ll put it on the computer, and if we find it, we’ll call.”

    I gave them the name of the person who had test-driven the car, her address and phone number, her boyfriend’s name and phone, and the name and address of the shop she took it to to have it inspected.

    They never called anyone of them.

    Called again, and they said, “Don’t worry, you can make an insurance claim”

    I had dropped Comp and Collision when I parked it. I’m out abut $3,500.

    The car was never recovered. The police did absolutely NOTHING to find the car, even when I had given them three good contacts to check out. They just didn’t care.

    “We have 300 cars stolen a month, we can’t investigate them all.”

    I wonder why?

  • avatar

    Not mine, but in roughly 2001 in college, my roommate had a 1988 Pontiac Grand Am in standard GM red and rust holes, with all the usual problems a 13 year old car powered by the Iron Duke and collegiate levels of neglect brings with it. He went to Germany for a few weeks and left it parked in our parking lot, expired plates and all. Upon returning home, he discovered it had been removed. The Grand Rapids police department was not in a hurry to locate a teenage bio hazard which burned antifreeze and oil in equal quantities, and suggested he see if it had been towed by the city due to missing registration.

    It had.

    The conversation with the impound lot went something like this:

    “You want how much to get it back? $125? Yeah you know what…you can keep it.”

    It was replaced with some late 80s K-Car variant which met a similar fate.

  • avatar

    I was back home for a few weeks between a summer job and fall term during law school, and rented a Pontiac G6 convertible to get around. I was staying with a friend who lived in a somewhat questionable part of town, and parking was a bit of a challenge. In front of a nearby corner park there was a curb spot marked “POLICE VEHICLES ONLY 8AM-8PM.” I came back from a party at about midnight, and there were no other places to park, so I parked in the POLICE ONLY spot and set an alarm for 6:00 so I’d move the car before the restriction came into effect.

    Three hours later I was awakened by a car alarm. It sounded suspiciously like the G6 horn, so I bounded outside, only to watch a tow truck drive off with my G6 on the hook. I sprinted after it, and in a moment of good fortune it hit a red light and had to wait. I knocked on the driver’s window and started yelling. After a long and loud debate he agreed to release the car if I’d pay the impound fee (~$200) on the spot. I did, and he then handed me a parking ticket for “parking in a police only zone.” Unfortunately I couldn’t contest it because I’d be back at school, 3000 miles away, by the time any hearing date was set. So I just paid it. But I’m still mad at the City of Seattle for not being able to read their own sign.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had a whole car stolen, even though I sure wish that some of them would have been!

  • avatar

    Back in the mid 70’s my dad was the president of a large regional grocery chain. We had a 22 ft offshore fishing/dive boat, and since this was in the days before big crew cab pickup trucks, his company car need to be capable of towing that size load and carry all of us and our stuff. He wasn’t happy with the choices he had of new cars, so when one of the district managers turned in his old company car, a white 1971 Dodge Polara with a mold green interior and the 255 hp 360 cid engine, he took it.

    There wasn’t a great deal of parking at the company headquarters, and because people often needed to move some cars around in the lot to get in or out, he used to leave the car unlocked and the keys in the ignition. One day he and one of the VPs came out to go to lunch and they discovered that someone had broken into and stolen the VPs car and left my dad’s car sitting in the parking place next to where it had been, unlocked and with the keys in the ignition.

    They made him get a new car.

  • avatar

    I Had a 1979 PE 250 Suzuki dirt bike that was stolen from me in the early 80’s. Years later I found out who had stole it. I never really had the chance to track the guy down. Ironically, and extremely tragically, the fellow’s teen-aged son was killed while riding a dirt bike. Talk about bad karma.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had a car stolen. I live in a great neighborhood; a lot of my neighbors are current and ex-LEO and military. Most of us, including myself, have exterior DVR cameras and all of us have home security systems. My workplace is a corporate building with a secure parking garage and a secure “open” lot. In both scenarios, the opportunities are slim that someone would take my cars. If anything, the risk is there if I’m out shopping, having a bite to eat or taking a trip somewhere.

    I do wish there were dashcams that were cloud connected by 4G with a camera facing the driver’s seat, so even if they attempt to take it off the windshield, sensor is tripped which activates the flash and…they smile for the camera, lol. They could smash it into little bits but it would be too late, the stills would be instantly uploaded to a server far, far away before they even had it fully pried from its mount.

    I have dashcams on all of my cars but they are useless if the car is stolen unless it is taken by a really dumb idiot and is left intact by the time the police intercepted it. Again, I feel fairly confident that I’m pretty safe. The opportunities just aren’t there most of the time and I don’t drive anything thieves are looking for–fast, popular or expensive, like a Hemi Charger, a Honda Civic or a late-model BMW, but it has crossed my mind.

    Two of my vehicles, my Ram and my 200, wouldnt get far. Both have immobilizers. Same for my wife’s Subaru.
    If by some chance they were able to get access to the ignition components (removing the dash would be required on the 200 and the Outback. Easily a two to four hour job, good luck), the engine would start and then shut off after 10 seconds. You’d have to get my keys first. Most other newer cars have this feature (if not all of them). No key, no go.

  • avatar

    From 1985 to 1996, I worked in a not-great neighborhood in Washington, D.C.
    In 1985, my battered 1965 Plymouth Fury was stolen from the company parking lot. It was found, but in a condition only worth selling for scrap.
    Replaced with a 1977 VW Rabbit, which apparently did not tempt car thieves.
    In 1989, I made the best auto purchase of my life – ’89 Honda Civic DX sedan. In 1990, Honda gets stolen from company lot. I reported the theft to police. And waited. A few days passed. Then the police called – my Honda had been found. Bring a screwdriver, I was told. My car (undamaged except for the broken rear quarter window, thank goodness) was sitting in three inches of water in the middle of the biggest junkyard I’d ever seen.
    Correction: There was another item missing from my car – the ignition cylinder. Hence the need to bring a screwdriver.
    Inserted screwdriver into ignition-cylinder hole. Twisted screwdriver. Car starts. (Honda reliability.)
    I drove home with the screwdriver sticking out of the steering column. Everything went fine – until the screwdriver slipped out, and the steering wheel locked while I was on an exit ramp. Fortunately, the ramp was a constant radius curve, so I had time to pick the screwdriver up, put it back into the ignition, and unlock the steering wheel before I merged onto the highway.
    Got the ignition cylinder replaced, bought a steering-wheel lock, and proceeded to drive that wonderful car until 2010, by which time it gone more than 248,000 miles.

  • avatar

    Got a helluva stolen boat story!

    In 2014, my parents purchased an immaculate 2001 Sea Ray 320 Sundancer, a 32’ cabin cruiser. Dual 6.2 MerCruiser 6.2L inboards (with 80 original hours on them; the boat had been out of the water and stored inside for seven years), galley, sleeps six, standup head, the works! Injected engines, with pushbutton starter buttons at the helm; the ignition switches themselves are down in the cabin on the DC power panel, like that found on larger yachts. In addition, there is a breaker which needs to be thrown at each switch before the engines can be started.

    The boat club to which my parents belong is on the Maumee River southwest of Toledo, eight miles or so from Lake Erie. Not much crime in the area, just the occasional break-ins by kids looking for free beer onboard! My Dad always left the ignition keys on a shelf above the cupboard with the ignition panel, and the cabin unlocked, the reason being that the beer-guzzling kids could do some serious damage trying to break in, and a case of beer is less costly.

    Until the day before my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary, later that first summer after they had purchased the boat, when my Dad went down for his summer Saturday ritual of washing and puttering around on the boat. My Dad drove in, and..NO BOAT!

    A group of other club members were standing around talking, and when they saw my Dad pull up, their eyes went as wide as saucers, because they thought that my parents had been dropped off, and had taken the boat for a weekend away!

    My Dad called the police to file a report, then drove home to start insurance proceedings. Meanwhile, my Mom called me to tell what happened, and I volunteered to go with my Dad to check out the various other marinas on the river and see if anyone had seen anything; my Dad started the tour out at the Coast Guard Station, near the mouth of the Maumee River, where we also filed a report.

    After a couple hours, we wound up back at their boat club, where my Dad received a phone call that the boat had been recovered by the Coasties at The Docks, a small group of restaurants on the east-side riverfront, across from downtown Toledo. Aside from missing keys, a blown stereo speaker, and, yes, an empty refrigerator, the boat was fine. (Ironically, my Dad and I had driven over an adjacent bridge earlier in the afternoon, and didn’t look over our shoulders!) A detective from the original police agency arrived and dusted for prints, and happened to run into a couple of “acquaintances” who had seen the perpetrators arrive the previous evening on the boat! The detective figured out who the main perp likely was, a local ne’er-do-well with an extensive rap sheet who always managed to stay one step ahead of the law, and whose greatest claim to fame was managing to get away from pursuing officers after he crashed the brand-new Ram pickup he had stolen, and which burned to a cinder! (Unfortunately, they couldn’t find decent prints at the helm, nor decent DNA off a drinking straw which had been discarded, so this idiot got away again!)

    But they managed to figure out how to start the boat (including the stuff down in the cabin with the ignitions), untie (all without arousing suspicion), then managed to take a joyride down the river, dock the boat without damaging it, and then left it behind after likely discarding the keys, all after a night of partying onboard!

    A couple re-keyed locks and a repaired cabin door later, which the perpetrators had locked behind them, my Dad and everyone at that boat club locks their boat cabins and takes the keys with them, and last year, they installed a webcam system to monitor the property 24/7.

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