Abandoned vehicles an easy target for car theives

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Erin Stanford and her husband left their pickup truck on the side of the interstate after it broke down one evening. Instead of having it towed, they decided to return the next day with tools and fix it themselves. Less than 12 hours later when they returned, the truck was gone. In its place, a pile of glass from a broken window.

“We try to hope for the best of people but you can’t always do that. So it might put you in a financial bind to tow it, but if you don’t want to lose the car – we had to learn that the hard way – if you don’t want the car to be completely gone, it might be beneficial to try to tow it, because $100 verus $2000, it’s a big gap. I kind of wish we had towed it, but we never imagined it would happen,” said Stanford.

Erin Stanford said her husband’s truck broke down on I-65 South just past the Greensprings exit.

“He was trying to work on it manually with no tools while he was on the side of the road,” said Stanford.

She said someone even stopped to try to help, but they couldn’t get the truck started again. So he decided to come back the next day with some tools instead of paying to have it towed. When they returned, the truck was gone. In its place…

“A bunch of broken glass … some of the stuff that was in his car, like some papers, and our daughter’s socks,” she said.

She said they called the police and the officer took a report. 

“Basically then he told us the likelihood of us seeing it again was pretty slim,” said Stanford.

CBS42 reached out to the Birmingham Police Department and spoke with a detective who works auto theft cases. He told me when cars go missing, any number of things can happen to them. They might be sold for scrap or parts. And they can travel long distances, even across state lines, in a short amount of time.

“Pickup trucks are a prime target because people are always looking for pieces and parts to pickup trucks,” said Dennis Lyons, founder of Impatient Creations, a custom auto body shop in Alabaster.

His shop works mostly on show cars, but when I told him about Erin Stanford’s situation, he said he’d heard of similar thefts.

“The small cars. The Hondas the Hyundais, the $3000 – $4000 or less car is a prime target because you can sell it quickly for cash,” said Lyons.

Erin Stanford said by sharing her story, she hopes others will make a different decision than they made.

“It might put you in a financial bind to tow it, but if you don’t want to lose the car — we had to learn that the hard way — if you don’t want the car to be completely gone, it might be beneficial to try to tow it,” said Stanford.

Prepare for the unexpected:

  • Keep a roadside emergency kit in your vehicle. You can purchase one or create your own. It doesn’t have to fix the car, but hopefully, it will get you going so you can get it home or to the nearest shop.  should include things like:
    • Jumper cables
    • A First Aid kit
    • A flashlight and batteries
    • A tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench and a pocket knife
    • A pressurized can of tire inflator
    • Motor Oil
    • Coolant
    • Tire Pressure Gauge
    • Paper Towels
  • Roadside Assistance
    • You can become a member of a service (like AAA), but also make sure you don’t already have roadside assistance service that you don’t know about.
    • Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance.
    • Some high end battery manufacturers also offer roadside assistance with their batteries.
    • Credit card companies sometimes offer features that include roadside assistance.
    • Your cell phone provider may offer this service as well.

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