Different Types of Auto Theft

Vehicles may be stolen for any of a number of reasons and to further any number of purposes. Here are some of them.

To sell the entire vehicle

One of the most common reasons to steal a car is simply to sell it again, in the same way that any stolen property is “fenced” illegally. Often thieves will take the car across state lines or even international borders. To escape detection, identification numbers may be altered or obliterated, titles and registrations forged, and the vehicle repainted.

To sell the parts

Perhaps even more frequently, vehicles are stolen in order to obtain the parts. Selling the parts individually may bring a thief two or three times what he could get selling the vehicle whole. Gangs of car thieves will set up “chop shops” that can strip a car down to its component parts in a matter of minutes. Often these thieves work in partnership with crooked repair shops and mechanics who are eager to purchase the stolen parts at a discount.

To obtain transportation

Sometimes a thief will steal a vehicle simply to provide transportation for himself. Typically, the thief will use the vehicle for his own purposes only for as long as he deems it safe, then abandoning or selling the vehicle before it can be traced to him.

To trade for drugs

This increasingly alarming trend is often referred to as “cars for crack,” since that is the drug most often associated with this type of car theft. The addict will “loan” his vehicle to a crack dealer in exchange for the drug. The drug dealer, in turn, uses the vehicle to transport his drugs, or even commit other crimes, with no threat of having to forfeit his own property when caught. If the drug dealer does not return the car or the car is seized by law enforcement, the addict reports the car as stolen to his insurance company. Should the insurance company settle the claim, the addict will usually use the money to buy more drugs. On the other hand, if the car is returned, the addict simply repeats the process.

To go joyriding

Auto thefts by juveniles for status or thrills continues to be a major problem. Often, the stolen car is simply abandoned later, but increasingly juvenile thieves are becoming involved in “cars for crack” or are working in collusion with organized criminal operations.

To commit other crimes

Sometimes, vehicles are stolen in order to be used in the commission of other crimes, such as drive-by shootings, burglaries and armed robberies. By using a stolen car, the criminals hope to reduce the chances that the crime will be traced back to them.

To commit insurance fraud

This type, usually referred to as an “owner give-up,” typically involves either leased vehicles with very high mileage whose turn-in costs are high or purchased vehicles whose owners no longer desire to make the monthly payments. The owner arranges to have the vehicle stolen or abandons it in a known high-theft area (hence, the “give-up”). In some cases, the owner may simply hide the vehicle somewhere and report it stolen to the police and insurance company. To ensure that the car is a write-off, the owner may actually burn the vehicle to obtain a total loss. While initially investigated as a vehicle theft, this criminal act is also insurance fraud.

To clone your vehicle

Nowadays, thieves can even steal your car without you knowing it! By removing your owner's registration and insurance card from your vehicle, a thief can use those documents to obtain a license plate registered to you. The thief then steals a vehicle which is identical or similar to yours and counterfeits your vehicle's identification number (known as a VIN) onto it. The result is two vehicles with the same VIN and registration. Naturally, if the stolen vehicle is involved in an accident or used in a crime, the police will think it's yours. Clearing up the confusion can be a lengthy and annoying process. Your best bet: don't keep your registration and insurance cards, or any other pertinent vehicle information, in your vehicle.

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