Monday, May 26, 2008

Auto Theft Using Tow Trucks In Charlotte, North Carolina (The Beginning Of A Disturbing Trend?) photo

It happened in Charlotte, North Carolina but this kind of thing happens all over America. As the price of scrap metal and gas rises, you'll see a lot more of it.

And it's another argument for using more advanced technology so legitimate towing can be distinguished from sophisticated auto theft using tow trucks...

Here's what happened, according to a story on the local Channel 9 Eyewitness News. (Click here for a link to the original report)

Police said Wednesday night that tow trucks are the latest tools used to steal cars in Charlotte. Investigators said a number of cars have been stolen recently along North Tryon Street.

The most recent case happened at an Advance Auto Parts store on the 4500 block of North Tryon. Police say unmarked tow trucks pull up and then haul off the cars. Witnesses often just assume it's for a legitimate reason.

Channel 9 Eyewitness News spoke to a reputable towing company who told us the cars are probably picked up and then taken straight to a chop shop or scrapyard.

"Take it down to the scrapyard. Get money for it. Scrap salvage. Turn it right back into soda cans," said Ben Rudy with Hunter Towing.

OK, I just have to insert something here. Soda cans? Is he serious? More like Chinese-made stoves and toasters. Most soda cans are made out of aluminum. Cars are made out of steel. You don't have to be very bright to know THAT.

Police say all tow trucks should have some sort of indentification or contact number on the side of the truck. Because tow trucks can cost almost one million dollars, police don't think the thieves are amateurs. They are confident these crimes are being committed by people with access to a tow truck and the knowledge of how to use one. (End of article)

A million dollars apiece? That sounds rather inflated, even for the super-deluxe heavy duty tow trucks. And there's no indication here the plain and unmarked vehicles in question were the super deluxe kind, which more often tow LARGE vehicles, anyway. I have to wonder if this wild-eyed million dollar estimate came from the same source who thinks stolen cars get made into soda cans.

All the same, a story is only as good as its sources and kudos to Channel 9 for bringing us information about this disturbing trend...likely to just get worse due to the rising scrap metal market.

So what is the answer, here? I think there needs to be better technology. If my car was being towed, right this minute, I should be getting an alert to that fact on both my cell phone and my email. In fact, I should get electronic alerts BEFORE my car gets towed, so I can run out and move the car if there is a problem.

Currently, it seems, anybody with a truck and a large metal hook can just go around grabbing cars. How did we get to this point? You didn't see it in the horse-and-buggy days. You didn't see it in the early days of automobiles. So why do we all just ACCEPT this situation of our cars (which are necessary for our very lives) being grabbed off the street with impunity?

What we are seeing in Charlotte, North Carolina will start happening in other cities. I've often driven along the highway, seen disabled cars by the side of the road, and thought, "What is to stop people from just pulling up with a truck and hauling off the cars?"

Well, it appears...nothing.

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