So, I've had my 98 Intrepid for about 3 years now, and I live in downtown Milwaukee. Just recently, though, I became the victim of car theft for the first time. The reason I'm posting this here is because of the strange situations that occurred since then, and the awareness for anyone in the area or in a similar situation.
The theft occurred on October 26th, around 7pm. I had pulled up in front of my apartment in a fairly low-income part of the city at around 6pm, locked the doors, and went inside to get changed for a show I was going to perform in that night. Upon leaving my apartment at 8pm, the car was gone. I was aghast.
I immediately got a ride to the police station from a friend, upon which I learned that the Dodge Intrepid was one of the top 4 stolen cars in the city
. This means one of three things:
- There is a serial car thief in Milwaukee who likes 'Treps, or
- There is something about the Intrepid which makes it easy or popular to steal, or
- There is something specific about a 98 'Trep which makes it valuable enough to try to steal over newer, more expensive cars nearby (less likely due to the condition it was recovered in).
Flash forward 17 days later, the car is located and identified by police... get this. One block away, in an alley.
The damage was as follows:
- The trunk lid is smashed in and folded up, and nearly everything in the trunk (all tools, rags, etc.) are gone. Except the full spare tire under the floorboard.
- The right passenger door handle is lifted up and out at an angle from the bottom (still opens the door, oddly enough).
- The ignition is knocked out of the steering column, and what does remain has cut marks and slight burn marks.
- The dashboard A/C control panel is removed and tossed into the back seat. (Though the radio unit was not stolen... Amateurs!)
- Some random crap from the backseat is missing. Shoes, a hat, a snow brush.
- A hose under the hood (which I believe to be the crankshaft vacuum hose) is cut, but not completely through.
- The battery is dead.
- Quarter of the tank of gas is gone.
- The registration (month and year) stickers were peeled off the rear license plate.
Luckily, the car was still driveable after a jump, though I had to use a burnt-up butter knife left by the thief to turn the ignition. The police decided not to dust for prints, since they assumed it was an amateur theft for a joyride based on the location of recovery, lack of removal of the radio and other obviously valuable items, and the lack of any police reports after mine involving the vehicle, which would have marked it as evidence.
I filed a claim with my insurance company the day after the car was stolen, and when the car was assessed, it was found to be worth $3830 (a relatively low mileage of 76k helped with that), whereas the repair costs would be $2800 or so. My deductible was only $100, and for another $99, I had them throw in a new battery, since my previous one could very well have been the original from '98 from what I knew of it. I was going to replace the battery myself, but anyone here who has replaced theirs knows how much of a pain it is, thanks to the joys of cab-forward design.
Now, I have her back, and she's got a shiny new posterior from the auto body shop, a new steering column, and a new door handle. The hose and battery were also replaced, and all that for under $200 (plus an insurance price hike).
In terms of advice I'd give and things I've learned from the experience:
- When you realize your car has been stolen, don't panic. Stay calm, and notify the authorities.
- Get a Club for your steering wheel. They cost $35, and they deter most thieves, if you can't afford an alarm or remote disable system.
- File police reports and insurance claims as quickly as you can after a theft. My insurance representative was extremely helpful, from offering cheaper alternatives to certain repairs (which I turned down for quality reasons), to getting my vehicle transferred from a service station to a more capable body shop for free, to driving me to the body shop to pick up the car.
- Know what is in your car, and how much it is worth. The insurance company gave me $55 for the stolen items I was able to report, but there was definitely more than that in the car which I didn't report because I wasn't sure if they were in the car or not.
- If possible, put a locator in your car. There are a number of different ways to do this, from the homebrew (a refurbished iPhone, with a locator app, charging off a rewired lighter plug) to the professional.
- Try to keep important tools like tire irons and jacks, or risky items like slim jims or spare keys, hidden from plain view. Since the thieves could have smashed in my trunk lid to access my tools, then used those tools to steal the car, having them not visible might have deterred these amateurs. Plus, now I have to buy a jack and a tire iron again, in case I blow a tire on the terrible Wisconsin roads.
- Ensure your vehicle is identifiable. The police said they realized my car was a theft because of an "I CLOSED WOLSKI'S" bar bumper sticker (a Milwaukee college staple), and a window sticker for my school. They figured since the car looked damaged and abandoned, but looked like a college student's car, they'd run the plates. Lo and behold, it was indeed stolen.
- The DMV replaced my registration stickers for free, since the registration itself was paid for already. All I had to do was call them up and inform them of the situation.
If anyone else has stories about your car's theft, please share the knowledge and experience.