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"Smash & Grab" of Older Cars?

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I was stunned to hear the following from a friend in the Atlanta GA area, whose familiy has had several cars stolen for scrap. Apparently, theives are taking advantage of some very 'lax' laws on scrapping cars. <span style="font-style: italic">[his message has been edited to remove personal info]</span>

<span style="font-size: 14pt"><span style="color: #3366FF">".....the 1960 [car #1] was almost stolen from me last Tuesday. There have been a lot of old car thefts in Atlanta recently and since you only need to present a drivers licence to scrap any car older than 1984, stolen old cars are going in the crusher everyday. My very nice 1967 [car #2] was stolen and crushed. My mint 1984 [car #3] was also taken. It was recovered but it has major damage from being fork lifted around by the roof and they cut stuff out from under the car. It's totaled but we are keeping it for sentiment. They also stole my 1991 [car #4]. I was at work and a friend that just happened to drive by called me and told me cars were gone. I raced over there and the guy had just busted 2 windows out of [car #1] to get in it and was about to haul it off to the scrapper. Needless to say he left in handcuffs. They are looking at 6 years from my three cars but I am out thousands on [car #2]. That's big business around here, snatch a car and drag it to the crusher. They run the numbers before you get home and it comes back clean and the car is no more before you can even report it stolen. They made off with three in just a couple hours and took each to a different scrap yard. They would have had all of them if I didn't catch them in the act and they would all have been scrapped before the paper work even hit the detectives desk." </span></span>

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Greg,

VERY, VERY sorry to hear about your loss.

For the rest of us, if you have an old car that is exposed (unlocked or public garage) I would suggest a very simple 'anti-theft' device. Just remove an item from the engine that will keep it from starting, such as the wire from the coil to the distributor, or the rotor out of the distributor.

Since most punks today don't know anything about cars, they will never be able to figure out what is wrong, and as the ad says, they will go on to the next car. For those who may know something about cars, I doubt if 99% of them will carry around a spare coil wire or rotor.

And, of course I hope this goes without saying, keep FULL COVERAGE INSURANCE on your car! I know a check won't replace the emotional value and all the time you put into restoring or caring for that car, but it is better than a stolen car and NO money.

Finally, if these crushers are in the city limits, go to your city council representative and ask for a simple 48 hour rule before cars can be crushed, and if they are not doing it already, have the salvage yards send ALL VINs to the police before that 48 hour clock starts. At least that will give you a day or two for the bureaucracy to catch up with the stolen cars before it is crushed. If they are in unincorporated (no citiy limits) areas, ask your state legislature to pass a 48 hour law, with the VINs sent to the county sheriff.

Good luck to all!

Joe

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Greg,

Sorry to hear the bad news about your friends cars. With the current state of the economy anything metal seems to be fair game including manhole covers, gutters, statues, etc. Someone around here recently ripped a 60K bronze statue from its base (3K scrap value).

Out of curiosity and this may be of some assistance to us with old cars, did your friend have regular or antique auto insurance. The reason I ask is I use 2 antique automobile insurance companies and both their polices clearly state that the vehicles must be in a locked building / enclosure, or they can opt not to pay a claim. Most companies carry similar language. If it was an antique policy, I was wondering if there were some issues / grief from the insurance company for having the vehicles sitting out?

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Ron Green</div><div class="ubbcode-body">...anything metal seems to be fair game including manhole covers, gutters, statues, etc. Someone around here recently ripped a 60K bronze statue from its base (3K scrap value).</div></div>

Ron,

Yeah, here in Detroit area there is a lot of that, too. Plumbing (copper) from older homes is becoming popular. Not just the old abandonded inner city homes, but vacant (vacation, foreclosure, etc) "nice" homes in the suburbs. Also catalytic converters have been hot, too. The theives just cut 'em off in your driveway or parking lot!

I'm not sure what type of insurance my friend had on the cars. He has a large collection of interesting cars, but most are driver-grade, many are sedans, and some are not even "on the road" yet. As such, his cars would likely raise less questions at the scrap metal yard than, say, a show quality convertible.

In any case, it is alarming that laws would not require proof of ownership (and title?) prior to scrapping.

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The last house I renovated (part of the reason I closed my business and went back to my desk job) had all the new copper plumbing stolen. I did the entire house twice--if I ever renovate another house, I'm using PEX and putting up a sign that says "No copper inside--plastic only!"

What's crazy is the risk these morons are taking for what amounts to very little money. I'd be surprised if they got more than $20 for the stuff they stole from my house. There isn't a lot of poundage of copper in a house, and you know when they showed up at the scrap yard with bright, shiny new copper, the scrap guy knew it was stolen and didn't pay them full price for it. The worst thing is that they did it in broad daylight, too, smashing through the solid oak front door (the back door was glass), and carrying it out to their truck while my neighbor watched (he says he thought they were workmen).

Have we really become so desperate as to steal old cars for a few bucks of salvage cash? That's so sad.

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Speaking of stealing metal for scrap, out in my parts they're taking caps off of the fire hydrants and the bronze placques off of the veteran's graves.

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Greg,

The one that gets me is the 1991 car. Was that stolen to try to crush it, or was that just for a joy ride? What is the cutoff year for scrappage in your area?

Dan

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One of the more common crimes in our area is where someone will steal a car, take it up to Rochester to a drug house to buy drugs. That way the same vehicle isn't in front of the drug house which makes it tougher for law enforcement to track a certain vehicle. My guess is they might've stolen the car to go to a drug house, scrapped the car, and then gone on with their life.

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I find it quite hard to believe thieves would bring an antique car into a scrapyard and no questions are asked or a call to the police made. Are scrapyard people this stupid???

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We had a scrap dealer back here that boasted he had Jewelrey stolen from all over the world.......And other stuff too. eek.gif Dandy Dave!

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Re; "I wonder why detectives don't just camp out at scrap yards with a patty wagon."

The police did just that in my city and the scrap yard went to city hall and had it stopped. No one was going there because of the police.

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Police departments these days are not about CRIME but about MONEY.

Don't believe it? Try these two things:

1. Go to the police department parking lot and see how many patrol cars are NOT equipped with radar. Also, notice how many UNMARKED cars are parked there. Notice how many have radar antennas facing front and back.

At an average of $200-300 per ticket issued, these $30,000 police cars that are replaced every 2-3 years generate about $6,000 PER DAY per car if they write an average of 20 tickets each.

That means that each car can generate more than $1 million per year by being parked on a busy street or freeway. (Ha, ha, freeway--funny, huh?) Basically, they are rolling ATMs for city councilmen.

2. Get a copy of your city's budget and find out how much, as a percentage, of your city's budget comes from traffic fines. Don't be surprised if 30-40% of your city's annual budget comes from ticket fines. In some areas, it can easily be 50%.

You may have trouble getting a straight answer to this question. Some cities don't want to show the ticket revenues in one account or place, so it may be split over things like 'fines,' 'administrative charges/fees,' 'court costs,' 'late fees,' and other charges.

So, there is no profit in arresting crooked scrap metal dealers.

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Reatta Man, You have touched a nerve there....

Before you are going to attack "Police Departments", you should consider that Municipal Law Enforcement in America is a very local thing. Very few generalized statements will apply across the board to all agencies.

You might also want to do a little bit of research. Your theory is not correct in my state. It may be somewhat true somewhere, but not in North Carolina. NC Cities receive NO income from criminal fines. In North Carolina, ALL criminal fines go to the School System (which is run by the County, not the City).

In fact, we are probably going to have to pull the plug on our Red Light cameras, (which have reduced traffic crashes) because the city loses about $200,000 per year on the program. It costs that much for the program, and the city receives NO revenue from them. Previously, the city withheld the cost of running the program from the proceeds of the tickets and the school boards sued and The State Supreme Court ruled that they had to have ALL of the revenue.

Here, the City is a revenue source for the County Schools and also for the County (the county keep over 80% of the sales tax revenue collected in my city).

Your math is also wrong, in this state, the total cost of court is $120, not $200-$300. At least here, even our most prolific ticket writer (in our small traffic unit), does not write 20 tickets a day. While many of our officers don't write traffic tickets, detectives, most supervisors, command staff, etc.... our 258 member police department only wrote 4194 traffic ticket last YEAR (which averages out to a little bit over 16 tickets per officer for the year).

Only a small number of our Patrol Cars have RADAR. We can't afford to equip all of our fleet with RADAR, just like we can't afford to issue TASERS to all of our officers. It is all about the budget. The city council does not want to raise the tax rate and thus, we continue to try to do more each year with less resources, and increased costs.

Most police departments cannot afford to pay officers to sit outside scrap yards all the time. We have staked them out at times successfuly and we also routinely review their records and make additional arrests. The unprecedented increase in cost of gasoline and other fuel is projected to put an $800,000 crimp in our city's budget this fiscal year. We are cutting back on everything, because we are required to have a balanced budget. If you think putting fuel in your personal cars and trucks is expensive, try paying to keep fuel in about 200 police cars for a year.

Now, back on topic...

Some people will steal anything, anywhere, that is not locked up or nailed down. They steal whatever is profitable. Scrap metal prices are up, so metal theft is also up. We are making many arrests for copper theft. Lots of copper has been stolen from vacant or unoccupied homes. Lots of damage has been done by these thoughtless crooks. Plumbers and HVAC contractors have made lots of money replacing stolen copper and fixing stuff damages during these thefts.

We have experienced some instances of junk (not antique) cars being stolen here locally. I am aware that we have solved some if not all of those thefts. In NC, the scrap dealers are required to keep records that help in those cases, not that every one of them follows the law to the letter.... Thieves have been around for a couple of thousand years and I suspect that they will still continue to grace us with their presence for quite a while, since we cannot afford to keep them all in jail either.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Reatta Man, You have touched a nerve there....</div></div> Yup me too. Depending in the shift, the size of your municipality and the call volume, a lot of times you may have so many complaints that you can literally go months on end without writing a ticket.

20 tickets per day??? That's three tickets per hour. It's pretty tough to catch someone doing something wrong, write a ticket, get back on duty, and catch two more people doing something wrong again within that same hour. I know in Rochester, it is not uncommon to have 15 complaints backed up waiting for you to answer at the beginning of your shift. If you get a major crime go down, the number of backed up complaints gets even higher.

Yes if there's an accident you may be able to write 3 tickets in one accident, but if you have to deal with the fire department, EMS, the wreckers, doing the report, while also trying to get traffic back to normal those three tickets will most often take more than an hour. If you end up in court during your shift you'll lose time for that too. 20 tickets per day is extremely fictional at its' best.

In New York state, the only time a community gets all of the money from a ticket is when you write someone for a violation of a local ordinance and not for a violation of state law.

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I don't know our county sheriff's department budget..really could care less...I know they are some of the finest people you could hope to find...if you see someone pulled in my county..you can bet that sucker was way out of control..I am way out in the south end of the county..I have no problem getting a sheriff this way if needed and their response time has been good...even our state troopers are an elite force of couteous professionals..wish I could say a bit more or praise the local municipal police but they seem to be a different breed..why I have no clue but they always seems to out to prove something...but then again I have never lived in a municipality and have no clue what their daily duties may entail..that is the main reason I live in a rural area..less people..usually less problems. I am very glad our county has the officers we have..trust me..I have seen some pretty bad units in other places I have been..

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: MCHinson</div><div class="ubbcode-body">

In fact, we are probably going to have to pull the plug on our Red Light cameras, (which have reduced traffic crashes) because the city loses about $200,000 per year on the program. It costs that much for the program, and the city receives NO revenue from them. Previously, the city withheld the cost of running the program from the proceeds of the tickets and the school boards sued and The State Supreme Court ruled that they had to have ALL of the revenue.

</div></div>

Sorry MC, but this part proves Reatta Man's point in my opinion. Essentially the City needs people to break the laws because of revenue, otherwise they would not want you to shut down the camera's.

It is a sorry situation that many municipialities need their own police force for whatever reason they have them. Here we have State Police, County Sheriffs, and a local town force plus a huge tax bill to afford them all. We also have a State DOT, a County Dept of Public Works and our town has a town Highway Department. And no one seems to think this is out of the ordinary, except me. I often wonder why our town can't drop the police dept and let the County Sheriff take over, while we let the county drop their Dept of Public works road crews?

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You guys should move to Rhode Island. The only time you see a cop is when you pass a Dunkin' Doughnut shop. We have speeders, redlight & stop sign runners running wild.......Maybe that's why we're broke!! sick.gif

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JohnD1956,

Actually, I don't think so. The city NEVER received any revenue from the red light cameras. Initially, the city was able to pay for the cameras out of the fines, but now ALL of the fines have to go to the County School Board. I could have not mentioned that because it obviously has the potential to be misunderstood by someone just like you are saying, but I think it is one small example of the dire budget situation that we (and probably other municipalities) are facing.

I also posted that portion of the budget picture to show that the city has actually been paying that amount for the last year in spite of receiving no revenue (which certainly disputes Reatta Man's thought on the subject). If his premise was correct, we would have never had that program without receiving revenue from it. We don't have all the cash that Reatta Man seems to think that towns have. Our gasoline costs have been so over budget, that we are having to make plans to cut this year's budget to balance it and are cutting major things across the board. We are also planning to reduce next year's budget substantially because the city council is unwilling to raise taxes. This is causing elimination of the Red Light Camera program to be proposed. There are lots of other good programs that are also being proposed for elimination. We will probably end up laying off some people. That is NOT the picture of municipal revenue that Reatta Man is trying to say exists.

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Sorry to touch on some nerves here, but I am a former city councilman and a graduate of a citizens police academy.

I know what I am talking about; but I will admit that NC is the first state I have heard of where the local city budget doesn't benefit from traffic fines.

Here in Texas, the city of Selma was so bad about speed traps and their city budget, the state legislature had to pass a bill limiting the percentage of a city's budget that can come from traffic fines.

As for the $120, yeah that may be the fine, but then add the court costs, the processing fees, etc, etc, etc. That is why I made the distinction of breaking down fines, court costs (many cities levy a court cost even if you pay by MAIL). And a LOT of states and cities have fines WAY, WAY over $120.

Here in the San Antonio area, the suburb of Balcones Heights had to cut their fees for tickets from red light cameras from $144 to $75 after the state passed a law limiting the fines. A company in Phoenix was going to keep part of the fine and send the rest to the city. Their take from the cameras WAS estimated to be well into the mid six-figure range before the state stepped in. And, of course, this is all done under the pretense of increased safey, right? A study by AAA found red light infractions went down by 25% but rear end collisions went UP by 15%....

And, oh, by the way, if you didn't pay your fine, they were going to send the ticket to a collection agency.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/MYSA071807_nc18redlight_fa0c6b_html3574.html

http://radio.woai.com/cc-common/mainheadlines3.html?feed=119078&article=2188351

YES, there are LOTS of good police officers. The overwhelming majority of them are good, brave public servants. I am talking about those who have a different agenda than the one they are supposed to be following.

And, one last point; if traffic ticket quotas are not STILL a part of the municipal budget process, then tell me why the Louisiana legislature just THIS YEAR had to try to pass a law limiting the amount of a municipality's budget that comes from traffic fines?

http://pafop38.com/2008/05/16/la-senate-bans-traffic-ticket-quotas/

Here is an interesting quote from this newspaper article:

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/23/2375.asp

The proposed law does not contain any of the escape clauses commonly found in ticket quota bans in other states. In Maryland, for example, quotas are banned but police supervisors may use "quantitative data" in evaluating an officer's performance. Such clauses allow quotas to continue in agencies such as the Pennsylvania State Police where averages and proportions achieve the effect of a quota without triggering the law.

Louisiana's Legislative Auditor documented the state's problem with speed traps in a report released last June. At least fifteen localities used traffic tickets to generate more than half of their municipal budget. Baskin, Georgetown, Lillie and Robeline each made more than 85 percent of their general budget revenue from traffic citations. Baskin was the top speed trap with $1719 in per capita speeding ticket revenue (view report). Baton Rouge came in at number eight on the National Motorists Association list of the top-ten biggest speed traps nationwide.

Think this is limited to the South? Think again! Here is a quote from an article about two economists, Michael D. Makowsky and Thomas Stratman, both at George Mason University regarding the connection between speeding tickets and local finance:

QUOTE

Their treatise, "Political Economy at Any Speed: What Determines Traffic Citations?"was discussed in a column by Judith Chevalier of the Yale School of Management in the New York Times.

The researchers examined every warning and citation written by police officers in all of Massachusetts, excluding Boston--some 60,000--during a two-month period in 2001. They found a statistical link between a town's finances and the likelihood that its police officers would issue a speeding ticket. And, interestingly enough, although hardly surprising to me, they also found that tickets were issued more often in places that were short on cash and that out-of-towners received tickets more often than drivers with local addresses.

Makowsky and Stratmann speculate that the seeming discrimination against out-of-towners by the local police might be explained by two factors: a desire to avoid antagonizing local voters and a preference for ticketing people who were less likely to travel to court to protest a ticket. Ms. Chevalier observes that the phenomenon noted in the study may have implications beyond speeding tickets. During the housing price run-up, for example, property tax revenue in the United States rose substantially--by 20 percent over all from 2002 to 2005. With housing prices now flat or down, town governments may try to seek property tax rate increases, and voters may resist. Historically, economists have noticed that when there is a lid on property taxes, towns turn to user fees and other sources of revenue--like speeding tickets--to avoid spending cuts.

END QUOTE

Here's the dirty little secret: taxpayers will scream BLOODY MURDER if you raise their property taxes $5 per year. That scares the daylights out of politicians trying to get reelected or move on to their next step on their political ladder. But raise taxes on tourists using rental cars or fines on speeding tickets? Not a peep......

One more and then I will go:

http://www.motorists.org/blog/georgia-city-rakes-in-1136-in-traffic-ticket-fines-per-resident/

This Georgia town of 491 people took in $558,000 in traffic ticket fines. Wow......

So, keep it down, or keep your wallet handy...

As for the topic, I hope the first post in this string of messages has some useful info for anyone trying to protect their car.

joe

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Reatta Man, The $120 figure that I quoted was the total of all of the Court Cost fees. (None of which go back to the agency who wrote the ticket.)

I have previously been in charge of our Police Department's Budget. I have previously been over Special Operations, which includes our Traffic Unit, and I currently am a Patrol District Commander, so I know a thing or two about the budget, traffic enforcement, and day to day police operations in my locality.

....And, you should note that none of your quoted sources are in North Carolina.

Just don't make blanket accusations without knowing all of the facts, and you won't provoke any more tirades from me.

Now, back on topic... To protect ALL of your stuff, it is easy. Lock it up! A thief will go for the easy stuff before he or she will go for stuff that is not easy to steal because it is locked up.

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The police don't much care about <span style="font-style: italic">preventing</span> crime. They do care about catching criminals after the fact and either fining them or imprisoning them (both of which are highly lucrative). Preventing crime is a money-loser and extremely difficult. A bulk of "crime fighting" involves showing up, filling out forms, then saying, "Well, there's not much we can do, but we'll call you if anything turns up." The "if anything turns up" means "if we get lucky enough to stumble onto these guys and they admit that they did it without being asked."

The reason traffic enforcement is so astoundingly efficient is that it serves two purposes. One, of course, is revenue. Two, by stopping speeders, government leaders can claim they're cracking down on crime and talk about the reduction in "crime" they've achieved. Of course, that reduction comes from stopping those nefarious people who go 42 in a 35 zone or don't come to a 100% stop at a vacant stop sign. But it sure looks good in the papers.

Traffic cameras are a real bugaboo of mine. Not to be too verbose, but they stack the deck against the motorist and in favor of the company that builds them. First, they change the definition of "intersection" so that more people actually run red lights, even if they stop. If you're in the "box" you've run the light, even if the box begins 20 feet from the intersection. Two, the yellows are shortened to make it harder for people to make last minute stops.

The fines collected are split between the city and the company supplying the camera hardware. If the city changes the rules to favor more tickets being handed out, they get a 50% cut. If they leave the intersection alone (which is what they would do if it was about safety), they only get 10% of the fines, which usually amounts to $0 because red light running is extremely uncommon. It isn't like we're all maniacs with a total disregard for safety. Dopey Joe the Plumber thinks red light runners are the scourge of society and that they must be stopped at all costs. In reality, it's a very rare crime.

Ultimately what happens is that red light cameras merely move the location of the accidents, and raise their rate of incidence. Sure, big crashes in the intersection are reduced, but the number of rear-enders in the area around the intersection skyrockets.

No, if this nonsense was about safety, they'd make the yellows longer and let traffic regulate itself.

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