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Thefts from cars?

Discussion in 'Tilted Philosophy, Politics, and Economics' started by Street Pattern, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    On another fora, I complained about the behavior of my aftermarket GPS unit, as follows:

    This prompted the following, from a woman who lives in Delaware:
    Do I live in a "super safe" area? Maybe by East Coast standards I do.

    But if a thief broke into my car and took my one-year-old GPS, which cost about $130 new, what could he possibly get for it? I'm guessing five or ten bucks at the most. Who would buy a used cheap plastic GPS with year-plus outdated road information?

    No one has ever broken into my car. Around here, in the last dozen years or so, car break-ins are a theoretical possibility, not something that happens to anyone I know.

    So she responded:
    I think, in general, property thieves ARE logical (see, for example, Thinking About Crime, by James Q. Wilson). They might be stupid, but presumably they're trying to make a living, or support a drug habit, so their behavior will be guided by incentives. They will take stuff they can readily sell for money, the more the better.

    If disposing of stolen stuff becomes time-consuming, because you have to hunt around to find a buyer, then you don't have much time for thievery. I'm guessing that, if a city has a lot of thefts of automobile accessories (air bags, GPS units, car stereos, etc.), then there must be a criminal infrastructure or network, and thus a ready market for stolen items. The thief stealing from cars is not an isolated, individual actor, but the lowest tentacle of an informal organization, an ecosystem that sucks up stolen items and somehow turns them into money.

    My East Coast friend is accustomed to living in a place which has such a "theft ecosystem". I'm guessing that we don't have one (or much of one) in this town.
  2. Stan

    Stan Resident Dumbass

    Where I live, theft at trailheads is a concern. The best bet for me is not leaving anything worth stealing in the truck. While I drive a later model truck, it frequently has mud hanging off the mirrors and an industrial (Molly) strength leash hanging off the tailgate. I'm told that a few empty shotgun shells in the back work well.
  3. When I went to Milwaukee this past fall to see Coheed and Cambria in concert, someone broke into the van we took and stole a single backpack. There were other backpacks with expensive things in them, but only the single backpack was stolen.
    I will echo that criminals mostly just want to "grab and go." Putting myself in their shoes, I'd be much more apt about not getting caught than I would be about making sure I got the 'best stuff'; there's always other cars.

    East Jesus Nowhere is one of those towns where people leave their cars unlocked and running while they go in to the gas station. From what I understand, there aren't any really huge thefts. We just... don't. It's kind of nice.
    That said, I still don't keep anything of value in my vehicle. I'm paranoid.
  4. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    We've had friends have some seriously valuable stuff stolen from cars at trailheads. We lock everything really expensive up in the trunk as a result.

    I've had my windows smashed twice on two different cars, and twice my husband forgot to lock the car, so someone got in and stole stuff. The first was at a train station in Salem, OR. It's not the sketchiest part of Salem, either. I drove a Dodge Dakota at the time, and the person broke my driver's side window to steal a car charger for my iPod. Yup. The second window smash happened in my driveway this summer. The person stole a backpack filled with my husband's ultimate frisbee gear out of the backseat. They dropped it about a block away after they realized it had nothing really valuable in it. The first time the car was unlocked, my iPod got stolen out of it, but that was okay because the iPod was broken. Hope they appreciated that. The second time, I'd forgotten to take my purse out of the car, and it got stolen. That was a hassle, especially since it happened right before we were leaving on vacation. Suffice it to say, I'm much more diligent about not leaving stuff in the car, and I have a crossbody purse now that I never forget.
  5. @Street Pattern, you should consider that Ann Arbor is an extension of the Greater Detroit crime network. Smash-and-grab thieves will find a market for their goods without too much trouble. Speed is a big issue with these assholes. They grab the most easily accessible items and run before someone can notice and react.

    My friend's son left his GPS, cables, phone, I-pod and other sundries on the seat of his Jeep. The thieves took the GPS and left the rest. They missed the most valuable stuff, but still got something they could fence without much trouble.
  6. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    Technically true, yes, but I think the crooks are just exactly like people who work for Channel 7 and Channel 4. They hate to have to drive all the way out to Ann Arbor for anything. And you know the reporter and the camera guy are so annoyed at being saddled with this assignment that they're sniping at each other the whole way. By the time they show up in my office, they're about ready to have a fistfight.

    Say a couple of Metro Detroit crooks go to Ann Arbor, steal a $1,000 car stereo, bring it back to Detroit, and fence it for, what, $50 or so? That's about an 80 mile round trip, four gallons of gas for about $14, leaving $36. Two hours for two guys nets around $9/hour each. They could probably do better working at McDonald's.

    That's why we don't worry too much about thefts from cars here. It just doesn't happen much. And nothing in my car would be worth very much, even if I tried to sell it legitimately.

    There aren't official stats on thefts-from-cars, but consider the numbers on thefts of entire automobiles. Take Warren, which is middle-class and conveniently located right in the middle of Metro Detroit. A car in Warren is about five to ten times more likely to get stolen as one in Ann Arbor.

    What I'm saying is that I doubt much stolen stuff gets fenced locally.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  7. You have a half of a point, there. But, the Detroit crooks aren't travelling to A2. The A2 crook has a "connection" that makes the trip, buys the loot from several "sources" and takes it back to the D for "distribution." Ann Arbor does have a lower crime rate, but it isn't zero, and there are better and worse areas, just like everywhere. Petty thefts are rarely reported, except to insurance companies. And, I'd be willing to bet that the amount of unreported on-campus theft is rather high, as are the thieves.
  8. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    Sure. But the "connection" surely takes a cut, so the yield to the actual thief is even less. If you're just stealing iPods for beer money, you probably don't mind. But if you're a thief with bills to pay and no legit employment, it's not a good deal.

    And there is no part of Ann Arbor which could be called dangerous or crime-ridden by any stretch of the imagination.

    Back in the old days, sure, the Ann Arbor that Bob Seger remembers and sings about -- "Down on Main Street" -- the hustlers and prostitutes on Fourth Avenue and Ann Street -- etc. etc.

    But that kind of thing is long gone, replaced by boutiques and art galleries and such.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  9. My own memories of Ann Arbor are from the early-mid 1970's, and mostly around the campus housing and the bars. I'll admit that my image of the town may be a bit dated.
  10. Street Pattern

    Street Pattern Very Tilted

    Ironically, that era in Ann Arbor is now widely seen as a lost paradise. :rolleyes:
  11. omega

    omega Very Tilted

    One of my coworkers forgot to bring in his shotgun overnight and some jackals was trying to grab it out of the locked rack after busting out the window. In a marked police car. Now what do you think would happen if you were caught with a stolen police weapon? So criminals are not that smart, and many are opportunists. And you don't break into one car in a day. You break into ten or twenty. Or more.
  12. rogue49

    rogue49 Tech Kung Fu Artist Staff Member

    In my own personal experience, no place was more risky in my experience than San Diego.

    Parts of cars, ANY part...would just walk off.
    Came out one morn, my neighbor's headlight was gone... (just ONE)

    Crash...they'd just run off immediately without the vehicle, because they weren't insured, it wasn't theirs...and they weren't likely legal.
    Hell, they even took the license plate tags off my car.

    Let's put it this way...if the Sheriff of Tijuana doesn't know where he got his Hummer from...then there's a problem. :rolleyes: