Vehicle tracking services require confirmed police report

Police say the majority of stolen vehicles are easy targets because the keys are made available. (WSMV)

By all accounts, we're making it too easy for car thieves.

Metro police have an astonishing number. During the week of July 9, police say 81 percent of the cars stolen were easy targets because the keys were left inside, or were made available to thieves.

If your car is stolen and you rely on a tracking system like OnStar or LoJack, there's something you should know about the way the process really works.

You may have seen news coverage where OnStar tracks a stolen car and police catch a carjacking suspect in the act.

News 4’s entertainment reporter Jimmy Carter thought that's how it would work when his Chevy Tahoe was stolen in Nashville on June 30.

"I knew within a minute that that car was gone," Carter said.

He admitted he made a foolish mistake. He left his Tahoe running while he ducked into a doggie day care.

"I was just going to run in for 60 seconds. But there's an old movie called Gone in 60 Seconds, and it was," Carter said.

What happened next surprised him. He called 911, then OnStar, thinking OnStar would tell him where his stolen Tahoe was.

"I was looking at it like it was going to take a couple of minutes. OK, they've got a 10-minute head start, five minutes at the most. And man, if they hurry, and if they hurry up and do this, we can hurry up and capture these people in the act of commissioning the crime," Carter said.

But it wasn't that easy when he called OnStar.

"I said, 'Do you know where my car is?’ They said, ‘Yes,’ but they said, ‘We can't tell you. You have to have the officers' name, the badge number and the report number,’” Carter said.

Turns out, OnStar won't track your vehicle until there's a confirmed police report. OnStar promotional video illustrates that first they verify with police that car is really stolen.

That raises the issue of police response times; how long will you wait for an officer before the tracking process begins?

A stolen car is not the highest-priority call for the Metro Nashville Police Department. It's a code 2 call – meaning police don't respond with lights and sirens. The crime is already over. It’s not as urgent, for example, as a burglar breaking in when a family's inside.

The average response time for a code 2 call in Metro is 30.8 minutes, according to Metro police.

So you could be waiting half an hour or more before police ever contact OnStar.

"I think it's a real concern for people around there because there are a lot of cars getting stolen," Carter said.

These days, Metro police are busier than ever with auto theft reports.

Metro’s figures show that auto theft are up 90 percent over the same period of time last year.

In the first six months of 2016, there were 725 cars stolen. In the first six months of this year, there were 1,380.

Metro's crime mapping tool shows that in a recent 90-day period, 649 auto thefts were reported.

Metro police think that part of the increase is due to people continuing to leave their cars unlocked, even running, like Carter did.

Metro police are getting proactive.

The Madison Precinct started working local gas stations in May, reminding people not to leave their keys in their cars.

"We have an epidemic. It's just a crime of opportunity," Sgt. Henry Particelli told one driver at the gas station. "We're making it too easy, giving away cars.”

Police think many cars are stolen to commit a crime - maybe a robbery or burglary - or by juveniles for joyrides.

Some of the stolen cars end in Metro's Auto Theft lot. Occasionally they are vandalized - wrecked or burned.

Detectives are seeing an increase in how many stolen cars had the keys inside.

"In 2015, 59 percent of the cars that were stolen had the keys in them. So far in 2017, that percent has increased to 70 percent," said Sgt. Jason Rosalia, an auto theft detective.

At the Madison gas station, Sgt. Particelli chastised a man who left his truck running as he went inside.

"It's a free car," Particelli said to Chase Schafer, who not only left his keys in his truck, he left it running.

"Is this just a bad habit for you?" Particelli asked.

Schafer could have gotten a ticket, but gets a warning instead.

"I really just ran into the store real quick to get something to drink," Schafer told News 4.

"Are you going to change your habits now?" the I-Team’s Nancy Amons asked.

“Yeah, I probably will,” Schafer said.

Jimmy Carter was lucky. With OnStar's help, Metro police recovered his Tahoe in about an hour. It was at an apartment complex off Dickerson Pike.

"They ultimately got my car back, thank goodness," Carter said. “The moral of the story - never leave your car running if you're not sitting in it."

A lesson Metro police want fewer people to learn the hard way.

Having your car stolen is not only a hassle, it could cause you another problem. If the car thief wrecks your car, you could be held responsible for the damage he causes if you left the keys in it.

Copyright 2017 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



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