Best place to steal a car.
February 17, 2005 5:24 AM   Subscribe

In an abstract sense, what would be the best way to steal a car?

Ok. So this is more of a thought experiment along the lines of How would you dispose of a body? So I'm not going to steal a car, nor encourage anyone to do so . .blah . . blah. But if you wanted to . . . I figure there are a few factors that should be considered for the "best" way.
(1) Expense. The more expensive the car, the better the answer. (2) Ease of theft. A running car with the keys inside is perhaps the best answer. Hotwiring skills can't be assumed. (3) Chances of getting caught. The longer it takes for the owner to realize it's been stolen- the better the answer.

So my first thought would be to hang out around a daycare facility in a tony neighborhood like Greenwich, Connecticut. That would satisfy fairly well the first two factors: there are likely to be expensive cars with the keys inside as parents are dropping off their kids. However, this wouldn't do very well on the third factor. The missing car would quickly be noticed and a call to the police would ensue.
posted by jeremias to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
There was an incident in my town a few months back where some kids snuck into a church lobby during the service and rifled through the coats until they found a keyfob with an automatic starter. They then went outside and pressed the button until a car (in this case a full-size SUV with under 1000 kms on it) started and they were off. The car was not noticed missing until the end of the service, and was later found, destroyed, in a town about 30 km away.

Seemed pretty clever to me.
posted by davey_darling at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2005


Well, is the hypothetical criminal a craftsman, or more pragmatic? Because the simplest way to steal a car is to buy a gun, walk up to a car with someone getting into their car, and take it.

I've seen news programs where they hire "reformed" car thieves to show just how easy it is to break into a car (the "craftsman" route). It probably took them less time than it would take you or I to do it with a key.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:47 AM on February 17, 2005


(3) Chances of getting caught. The longer it takes for the owner to realize it's been stolen- the better the answer.

Long-term parking at the airport is probably your best bet here. Ease of theft is reduced, but you'll most likely find expensive cars.
posted by j.edwards at 6:03 AM on February 17, 2005


j.edwards: I'd think long-term parking at the airport would be pretty secure (cameras, and people watching them)
posted by delmoi at 6:37 AM on February 17, 2005


the simplest way to steal a car is to buy a gun, walk up to a car with someone getting into their car, and take it.

Beg to differ. I think the easiest way would be to "borrow" the car of someone you know, then just not return it. No fuss, no mess.
posted by scratch at 6:38 AM on February 17, 2005



Well, is the hypothetical criminal a craftsman, or more pragmatic? Because the simplest way to steal a car is to buy a gun, walk up to a car with someone getting into their car, and take it.


I'm assuming that the hypothetical criminal is *not* a craftsman, so the gun approach as you noted, would score very low on the getting caught scale. I suppose another factor should be that noone gets hurt- as I suppose if you shot the person you stole the car from, you would have a greater chance of not getting caught (as long as noone heard or witnessed the shooting).
posted by jeremias at 6:43 AM on February 17, 2005


Get a little sign that says "VALET PARKING" and set up shop outside a restaurant. If questioned, remember you are a legitimate, albeit unlicensed, small time business.
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on February 17, 2005


davey_darling, I like the keyfob direction. I suspect that there's potential here- (going through pockets in a museum, restaurant coat check, etc.) although locating the car would ratchet up the "ease of theft" factor.
posted by jeremias at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2005


Step 1: Steal a towtruck.

I never understood why in either Gone in 60 Seconds the "master car thieves" didn't just steal a towtruck and be done with it.
posted by revgeorge at 6:56 AM on February 17, 2005


I'm always seeing valet parking attendents walking away and leaving the key storage box wide open. I figure it would be safe and easy to just grab a key with a Bling logo on it and drive the car away.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 7:02 AM on February 17, 2005


as I suppose if you shot the person you stole the car from, you would have a greater chance of not getting caught (as long as noone heard or witnessed the shooting).

But do you leave the body where it is or do you have to hide it? This increases the number of events that are dangerous for the thief, plus very significantly increases the amount of resources that the police will expend to track you down. If someone turns up dead and their car is missing then it will not be long before they're looking for the car quite intensively.
posted by biffa at 7:08 AM on February 17, 2005


That is why you never should leave your keys in your coat pocket when you hang or check your coat. Another reason is you might still need your keys if your coat is lost or stolen.
posted by caddis at 7:09 AM on February 17, 2005


I suppose if you shot the person you stole the car from

Right, that was what I was getting at... kind of morbid, so I was dancing around the subject a bit. If the guy's dead, then he's not likely to report you.

The best method overall (no violence, low risk of getting caught) would be the broad-daylight approach that revgeorge points out. In a city, for example, people who park on the street don't necessarily live directly in front of the building they're parked in front of. When I lived in Boston, I would sometimes park blocks away from my apartment. I've also had my car stolen in such a situation.

Given the lack of proximity to the owner (who might recognize their car alarm), the generally lackadaisical attitude of urbanites to the sound of car alarms, and the commonality of seeing someone that's locked out of their car trying to break into it, if you were fast enough with a slim jim you could probably take the car in the middle of the day, in the middle of the city.

I like revgeorge's idea, though, because it gives a sense of authority to passersby. Nobody's gonna call the cops if you've got a tow-truck. Hell, if the owner saw you, you could just say "Oh, looks like we got the wrong plates. Sorry."

I think the easiest way would be to "borrow" the car of someone you know, then just not return it.

This naturally won't work for the loner-thief.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 AM on February 17, 2005


If you were where I am you just walk downstairs, go into the employee parking lot and look for any of the half dozen or so vehicles that leave their keys in the ignition or on the dash. I'm serious.
posted by substrate at 7:20 AM on February 17, 2005




Well, when my car got stolen (... yep), the police told me that Saturns, pre-'98, had about the worst tumblers ever on their locks. Apparently you can get into almost any Saturn with the keys of any other Saturn if you just jiggle it around enough. Should work with the ignition, too. Of course, this presupposes you can get your hands on some saturn keys, but that shouldn't be too difficult.
posted by rkent at 7:45 AM on February 17, 2005


I always thought the most clever way (seen in Face Off) would be to grab keys with a remote opener on them from, in this case, the valet key box while the attendant is gone for awhile, walk around pressing the button, and take the car that unlocks. Seems practical, simple, and realistic.
posted by odinsdream at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2005


Let's forego the starting/breaking in tools.

I'm going to solve the "get away with it as long as possible" slant.

Steal someone's car who is dead. Someone from the Obituaries, preferably older. How about people getting married.? They' have a honeymoon. Where they go away

Or work at a travel agency and wait for someone to go on a long trip. Bonus here, you'll learn who has the money. No need to actually work for agency - just pay someone off who works there. Have them be alert for a client who is going somewhere in the top of style. They'll have home addresses too.

These two pieces of information are the (pun intended) keys for the longest "non-reporting" issue.
posted by filmgeek at 8:22 AM on February 17, 2005


Amusing anecdote filter: The cops in the UK started getting serious about car theft and began to bring in Scenes of Crime folks to go over recovered cars in an effort to identify who was stealing, joyriding and then discarding them (often with a mister whippy in the back seat as a final insult).

The local kiddies quickly realised what was going on and took steps to 'forensically clean' the vehicle after they had finished with it.

And thus a new phrase was born unto the language : The Car-B-Que.

I know all this because I used to be posted near an old airfield and had to ask the local cops about the sudden preponderance of burned out cars. Crazy kids...
posted by fingerbang at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2005


Oh and also - shunt certain late model fords hard enough to make it think it's been in an accident and the central locking will disengage to let the 'occupants' out.

There are also some simple tricks to discover the PIN code that secures many a car radio.
posted by fingerbang at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2005


During the winter in North Dakota, most people just leave their car running, keys in, doors unlocked, when they park in town. Watch the driver walk into a store, wait until they're out of sight and drive away. Simple.

Of course, this is from my observations in a small town that probably would have people that would notice that type of thing. And going to North Dakota during the winter just to steal a car seems pretty wasteful.
posted by easyasy3k at 8:37 AM on February 17, 2005


Walking around until you find someone who left their car running would probably be the easiest way (I see it all the time).
posted by drezdn at 8:50 AM on February 17, 2005


Don't steal the tow truck, since that's a big-ticket item that will get you in trouble with scary men that don't call the police when they have problems to sort out.

The only secret to succesful criminal work is to simply plan ahead. Almost no criminals do this. So, work at a towing company or repo firm to learn the ropes, save up, and buy your own tow truck. You can then steal with utter impunity, as many cars a day as you can hook up. If you get a paint job that resembles a local towing firm, you're practically bulletproof.

The only problem you'd realistically have would be how to dispose of so many cars. You'd need a decent chopshop working for you, and that's a major point of vulnerability. Also, the volumes you'd be working with might run you into trouble with the local syndicates -- and if you go to work for them you have the problem that their other criminal enterprises increase your risk of arrest.
posted by aramaic at 8:59 AM on February 17, 2005


Back when I was in high school, a couple of kids I knew and a few I didn't broke into a car dealership which had all the keys for all the cars on the lot on a peg board, neatly labeled. They stole six cars, wrecked two, and one of them nearly died in an accident.

As a group, teenage boys aren't all that bright.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2005


Another method might be to hang out in those neighborhoods described in the "People keep graffitting my car, what should I do?" thread from a week ago, simply open the door (they don't lock them), and hotwire ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 10:53 AM on February 17, 2005


I seem to remember seeing a movie or TV show... in which the thieves would strip a car of most of its parts, then buy the frame at auction, reassamble the car, and own it legally. Of course all the parts are still stolen, but the assumption was that the cops couldn't determine this if, like, they pulled you over for speeding or checked your registration.

From personal experience, I know that when a car is totalled out and the insurance company writes a check for the whole thing and then you try to repair the car and put it back on the road, there are some hoops to jump through with regards to the title before you can get a tag issued and so forth. So whether the above described method could actually work, I couldn't say.
posted by Clay201 at 4:27 PM on February 17, 2005


There are several places where you can get a car for next to nothing: valet parking services, parking lots, car rental agencies, and so forth. All you need to do is get the piece of paper that "proves" that you are the car's owner.

Try this: go to an extremely busy airport car rental place. Mug one of the renters, knock them unconscious, grab their paperwork, and drive off the lot using their paperwork. The customer would be on the line for the car unless they could somehow prove that they had been mugged, and the car rental agency might be willing to just write off the cost of the car.
posted by googly at 5:59 PM on February 17, 2005


« Older Boys will be boys.....   |   Keyboard shorcut for toggling checkbox (firefox) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.