Saturday, January 3, 2009

Jane: Grand Theft Auto

A sky-blue 2007 Toyota Camry--what a handsome car! You can see why I picked it. But take a good long look at this photo, because you won't see it parked in my driveway these days.

On New Year's Day, my car was stolen from the Ballet Academy parking lot.

I could hardly believe it. This is Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for heaven's sake! But my car is gone. Someone came into the building while I was in class, went into the ladies' room where the coat rack is, took my keys out of my coat pocket, and stole my car--that's the discovery I made when I came downstairs to leave the studio. It's now been almost 48 hours since the theft, and the car hasn't turned up yet.

The police officer who came to make the report told me that most stolen cars go on "joy rides" with local punks, er, criminals, and are found within 72 hours. He assured me that there aren't any chop shops in CR, but did warn that there are some in Dubuque, Council Bluffs, and, of course, Chicago, with folks just waiting to disassemble cars and sell the parts. "How much gas was in the tank?" he asked. I didn't know. I hope not enough to get it to Chicago!

The girls in the ballet class were amazed that I was "so calm" about my car being stolen. "I would be losing it right now!" said Gabe, a high-school girl. Well "losing it" wouldn't get the car back.

I have to admit, too, that one of the thoughts going through my mind was "hmm, I've never had a car stolen before." Like when I had some surgery and told the doctor "this will be interesting--I've never had surgery before." He looked at me weird. I keep forgetting that writers have kind of a wacky approach to life.

Crime stories aren't my bailiwick when it comes to writing, so finding out about "stolen cars, auto theft, crime statistics iowa" was a bit tricky at first, but I did find some good web sources. My favorite was an article called "Stolen Car, Day Two" on the Motley Fool website. I like the way the author described what a recovered stolen car might look like:

"The police will probably find the car in 72 hours with a busted steering column, a few dings in the fender, an empty bag of chips in the front seat, and smelling of reefer. It will have been parked for a couple of days on the street and no one knows anything."

One good thing: the theives won't have to break the steering column because they have the gol-darned keys . . .

How common are stolen cars? Many articles quoted the statistic that "every 26 seconds a car is stolen in the U.S." OK. But what about Cedar Rapids?

Statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report that I found on the local newspaper's site, GazetteOnline, say that in 2007, there were 339 auto thefts in Cedar Rapids. "About one a day," said Bruce. That surprised me.

How many of those cars were found? Doesn't say, but the Motley Fool writer found statistics that showed about 70% of stolen cars were found. Let's hope mine is in that 70% and not in the remaining lost-forever 30%.

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