Saturday, July 08, 2006

Last weekend I was at my brother's house with a friend. We were just chatting, drinking some beer. My friend left at about 1AM, and I watched him walk out from the second story window. He called me about a minute later. "Come out here quick! All of you! Someone's trying to steal my car!" We all ran outside and he told us what happened.

As I had watched him leave from the window, he was oblivious to the rustling in the woods across the street -- he only recalled it later. He walks up to his car to find the driver's door is wide open. His steering column is partly dismantled and his glove box is open. So is his wallet -- no cash gone -- sitting on the dashboard. Near as we can tell, his opening the front door scared off one, probably two very professional car thieves, just minutes before they made off with the car.

The creepiest part was that we think they were still hanging around, hiding in the narrow strip of woods on the other side of the street. We kept hearing rustling, as if the bad guys were slowly making their way out of the woods to the field on the other side. We used a flashlight to try to flush them out, but got nowhere. So maybe it was raccoons.

The first question is, why this car? It's a well-worn Honda Civic hatchback. One statistic I found said the 1995 Honda Civic was the most stolen car in 2004. According to the website auto-theft.info, the Honda Civics, Accords, and Toyota Camrys are almost always in the top three. So why steal these cars? They're so ... average. Two reasons. One, for parts. Because they're so common, their components can be sold very easily. Two, because they're cheap and common, these are the cars that kids turn into hot rods these days.

The next question is, why this neighborhood? We wondered about that. A nice quiet neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota, next to a park -- why the crime? It's an easy target. For some reason, police don't seem to patrol it much these days. The perception in the Twin Cities right now is that crime is rising, and that it's moving to nicer neighborhoods. Is this actually happening? I don't know, but that's what a lot of people are saying.

A week ago, a house down the block from my brother's got broken into while the family was sleeping. The story we heard from the neighborhood paranoid/gossip was that it was two twenty-something white males in "gang uniforms," whatever that means. The owner of the house woke up and chased them out. They took off in a white Suburban and got caught by the police. The stupidity of breaking into a house while the family sleeps leads me to think there were drugs involved.

Back to the car. The beauty of the whole thing was that nothing was damaged. They were that good at what they did. They didn't break the window; they pried it away and off its tracks. They used screwdrivers to remove the steering column components. Two screws were missing, so they must've been in the thief’s hand when my friend disrupted him.

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