Lawrence Crosby, an engineering doctoral graduate from Northwestern University found himself in an extremely confusing and scary situation back in 2015. While attempting to repair the loose molding on his car, local police received a car theft report from a woman who falsely identified him as a car thief. The women who had made the report followed Crosby back to his home and reported his location to the police.
Once arriving at Crosby’s location, the situation escalated after Crosby, who was understandably confused, insisted his innocence in the situation and resisted the arrest. Crosby was tackled to the ground and formally arrested for the supposed auto theft. Luckily, a judge later threw out the pending charges made on Crosby.
Crosby made headlines in the breaking news reported in the last week of January 2019, after the Chicago suburb tentatively agreed to pay him $1.25 million USD to settle the lawsuit pressed by Crosby in regard to the police officers tackling him and falsely arresting him for stealing a car that was indeed his. For those who keep up with Chicago news, this was a bittersweet victory for Crosby and those who support him.
Each year motor vehicle theft complaints not only in Chicago but the United States has annually increased by around 6 percent, putting many on edge when it comes to car theft prevention. According to Forbes’ report on car theft rates by city, Chicago doesn’t even rank top 10 when it comes to stolen car statistics, with Albuquerque, New Mexico ranking at number 1 with 9,989 recorded stolen vehicle reports.
How to Report a Stolen Car
When it comes to reporting a stolen car, there are a few rules you should follow in order to avoid another story similar to that of Crosby’s happening. It’s quite difficult to judge whether someone is stealing a car or not, especially if it isn’t your car. While we all want to do what is best as bystanders, it’s up to both us and the police to correctly assess the situation and avoid putting an innocent person through a potentially life-threatening situation with law enforcement.
1. Make Sure the Car Has Actually Been Stolen
It will be significantly easier if the car in question is your car. If it is missing from your home, check with anyone who would have had access to your keys to make sure it was not ‘borrowed’ without your permission. Check with your neighbors to find out of they seen or heard anything while you were gone. Triple check you actually parked it in the spot you originally did if it’s missing from a parking lot.
If the car does not belong to you, evaluate the situation accordingly.
- Was the thief concealing their identity?
- Did the thief use force to break into the vehicle?
- Did you witness the thief ‘hot-wiring’ the vehicle to get it to start without keys?
2. Call the Police
You should immediately call the police if you are certain that your car has been stolen/you’ve witnessed a car gets stolen. If you are a bystander in the situation, do not engage with the alleged thief and allow the police to do their job. It is up to the police to verify the ownership of the vehicle and to question the alleged thief once they apprehend them.
For your car, provide the following information:
- The VIN number
- The license plate number
- The year, make & model
- Any cosmetic details such as the color and/or noticeable exterior damage
- The last known location (or current location if you use location services such as OnStar or LoJack)
Keep a file of your stolen vehicle report, as you will need it for any insurance claims you may make in the future.
3. Call Your Insurance and Report the Car Stolen
It is crucial that you report your car stolen to your insurance provider whether you plan to make a claim with them or not. They must know that you are not in possession of the vehicle. If you’re looking to find out how to report a stolen car online, it’s likely that your insurance provider will not support such a claim and will like to speak with you personally on the phone to move forward.
What Happens If Your Car Is Stolen and Never Found?
If your car if not found, you will need to proceed with your insurance claim in order to receive reimbursement for the vehicle. Most insurance policies that only cover the state minimum will not provide reimbursement for stolen vehicles. State minimums vary by state, so you must check with both your provider & your state to confirm whether you will be provided reimbursement or not.
If you find that you are not able to receive reimbursement from your insurance, check with your extended auto warranty provider. DriveSmart offers $1,000 vehicle reimbursement for those who are members of the Ultimate® Savers Club, which is definitely better than nothing at all.
4. Report the Car Stolen to the DMV
The DMV keeps a database of stolen cars and typically works with the police in order to recover the vehicle and properly return it to the registered owner. In addition, if someone tries to register the car under their name it will red-flag in their system; thus, the DMV will alert the police of the car’s whereabouts and the description of who tried to register it.
5. Keep Your Eyes Peeled on Internet Markets
Facebook and Craigslist are both great tools for people to sell items on their own online for a quick buck. Check Craigslist car listings & your local market on Facebook to check if your vehicle appears for sale online. If you do find it, do not meet with the person who is selling it. Report the listing to the police and wait for them to act accordingly.