Thursday, January 1, 2009
Minneapolis Police Department Recovers My Stolen Van In One Day (Here's Info About Getting Towing Compensated For Auto Theft Victims)
My vehicle was stolen off the street in North Minneapolis. And it was partly my own fault...
The van, which I have dubbed Chick Magnet Two, has a problem with the ignition. The ignition has a tendency to just lock up, so I hacked a key in half and stuck it in the switch, keeping it there. Most thieves, I figured, would never see the key. It wasn't on a key chain and (so I thought) it looked just like part of the ignition.
I thought I could get away with this, as long as I locked the vehicle. I have a friend who has been using this trick for DECADES. Heck, fixing the ignition would cost more than I paid for the van. Of course, that's true of almost EVERYTHING on the van. (Click here for a little essay about the kinds of vehicles I drive, and how they all have names)
Well, my little key ploy didn't work. Somebody smashed the window right behind the driver's seat, unlocked the door, and made off with the vehicle. I could tell which window they smashed because of the habitual way I park and the location of the broken glass. And, to make matters worse, I wasn't carrying "comp" insurance on the van. Things have been quiet, lately, and I wasn't worried about--for example--my vehicle getting torched like Peter Teachout's truck on the 4th of July.
Most Vehicles Recovered Quickly
The officer who showed up was really nice, and didn't break my 'nads over the key issue. He assured me the vast majority of vehicles stolen in Minneapolis--ALL OF MINNEAPOLIS--are recovered quickly. Most times, he said, it's juveniles taking the car for a joyride, sometimes as part of a gang initiation. The problem, he said, is the "revolving door" of juvenile justice. There are no serious consequences for stealing a car.
That gave me some hope. Then somebody at the Hawthorne office mentioned her own stolen vehicle turning up in Brooklyn Center three months later. (or was it Brooklyn Park? Same place, I swear) I started to lose hope when I heard that.
Reckoning Up What Was Lost, What Was Saved
People who helped me out: "Patty Cake" and her adorable little VW bug, who actually drove around with me looking for the vehicle at Cub Foods and the liquor store, as well as the Eco Village...places I figured it might turn up. And Jeff Skrenes. For the one day I was van-less, they really helped me out.
There had been items I'd removed from the van, and now I was glad: my basket of laundry. My deceased father's warm gray stocking cap, which he'd want me to wear rather than keep as a memorial. Notably, I'd taken THAT cap and left my other cap in the van, though I normally wear both the caps at the same time.
A bottle of olive oil, with decorative herbs, for snacking on bread when I go on long drives. I'd told myself a dozen times, "John, take this out of the van and take it inside." The day before the van was stolen, I remembered. How minor. How silly. But they didn't get the olive oil bottle. No, they didn't get much at all, not even dirty laundry. But, yet, some things were in the van.
My parking permit, which had a $25 deposit, and I needed to turn it in before the end of the month or lose the deposit, or be forced to renew contract parking I didn't really need. That really hurt. And then there was silly stuff: a decent woman's purse (the purse, not the woman. OK, I don't know who the woman was, and so she was probably "decent," but I meant the purse) and a pair of rubber boots, not my size.
This was stuff I had planned to take to the Salvation Army because I am a fanatical environmentalist, always salvaging perfectly good leftovers here and there.
Worst of all: two new front tires and a new starter. That hurt.
The System Comes Through With Shining (MPD Blue) Colors
But I kept clinging to the words of the police officer who took the report plus some secret knowledge I had about the van: it has two different glitches which keep it from starting, or even turning over, at pretty regular intervals. If you know the glitches, they are easy to fix, though one requires popping the hood. But I figured the van would fail to start in the near future, and then the gangsters who swiped it would leave it somewhere.
Or maybe torch it. One or the other.
I was at the Veterans Administration hospital--thank goodness for light rail--waiting for my turn to see a doctor, when my cell phone rang. It was a police officer saying my vehicle had been recovered. There would be a charge of $138 for the towing but--he quickly informed me--I could get reimbursed for the towing. It was a matter of filling out a form. I should ask somebody at the impound lot about that.
He said there had been some "damage" to my vehicle, but he didn't have details. He didn't know where it had been recovered, either. So later that evening, Jeff took me to the impound lot. I brought along a can of gas, because I figured maybe the gangsters ran the car until it was out of fuel. Of course I had dreams--recessionary visions and fantasies--of gangsters filling up my tank, then leaving my van somewhere. Heck, I even wondered for a moment if they might CLEAN THE INTERIOR.
And then there was the OTHER possibility: they'd wrapped it around a utility pole, set it ablaze, puked beer all over the interior.
However, I was actually kind of hoping they'd left some souvenirs of themselves; 40 oz. beer bottles, fast food wrappers, the stubs of Swisher Sweets. Something, anything I could blog about and mercilessly mock.
A Ride To My Ride
Jeff managed to finesse the cashing of a check to help me out, since my bank was closed about two minutes before he showed up. At the impound lot, a security guard took me to my vehicle. I was thankful I had a spare key. I couldn't imagine my key being left in the vehicle.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw my van ahead. Its shape looked the same. The broken window was the very one I expected. When I opened the door, I could tell the electronics were still alive, and it started like a dream. But of course my key was gone. Some baby gangster is probably wearing it around his neck as though my stolen van were something other than a piece of s***.
Huh. One eighth of a tank of gas. This was roughly the contents of the tank when it was stolen. It must not have gone very far. Well, I guess sending out those psychic waves of energy helped, when I used ESP to tell the car to fail to start via one of the two known glitches.
Later, when I contacted Police Records at (612)-673-2961, and received a free emailed copy of the "public information" on my police report--which was plenty enough for my purposes--I discovered the vehicle had been recovered at 2700 Dupont Ave. N.
Seven blocks. They'd driven the stupid van 7 blocks. I bet the glitch finally worked in my favor.
Auto Theft Impound Fund
I made a point of asking the clerk at the impound lot about getting compensated for the $138 I was shelling out. She handed me a little form about the Auto Theft Impound Fund, which provides auto theft victims assistance with towing and storage fees incurred due to impound of a recovered stolen vehicle in Minnesota. Two criteria must be met: you must file a police report, and you must have insurance on the vehicle when it was stolen. (By which they apparently mean liability insurance. If you had comp, you wouldn't need the fund)
There was a number to call at the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office: 612-673-3549. When I called it the next day, I was told I'd be mailed a form.
Of course, I have to wonder why my car was towed AT ALL. Why didn't somebody just call me to come and fetch my vehicle? Also, I had the feeling the lady at the impound lot wouldn't have handed me that little slip of paper if I hadn't made a point of ASKING about it.
A Sense Of Peace
The whole time my van was stolen, I had a sense of peace about it. I had a feeling I'd be seeing my van again, or there was some higher purpose in these events. Maybe the higher purpose is to just broadcast information about the Auto Theft Impound Fund or to publicize the fact MPD is really good at recovering stolen vehicles. In fact, according to the officer who took my report, at any given time there aren't really THAT many stolen vehicles in Minneapolis. Police are running plates all the time.
My vehicle wasn't changed much by the theft. The woman's purse and rubber boots were gone, so be on the look out for a gangster with baggy pants, rubber boots, and a black-and-white pattern woman's purse. I had a broken digital camera in the car, which was still there...just flung to a different part of the car. The window had been smashed by a rock, and the rock was still in the van...it was actually kind of an interesting and pretty rock, like a cowardly gangster might swipe from some old woman's rock garden and then do that...that thing with the fingers, like, oooooh, I'm a gangster. I'm a straight up geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
They'd pried on the radio but guess what? The radio never worked, anyway. Ha!!!!!! What a disappointment my vehicle must have been.
Newspapers I'd intended to recycle were in disarray, blown all over the van's cargo compartment with gritty, filthy snow and hunks of glass. So the next day I spent quite a bit of time vacuuming the van, and when I was done I rejoiced in how nice it was and wished I'd cleaned it earlier.
Knowing my vehicle key was still out there, dangling off the Prince Albert penis-piercing of some wannabe gangster like a Ruby from Dorothy's magic slippers, I paid $19.95 plus tax for a steering wheel locking device, something I hadn't used since I was stationed in El Paso, notorious for auto theft. (Vehicles would disappear, only to turn up on the other side of the Rio Grande being driven by the Mexican police. But none of my vehicles, even though I had one vehicle which lacked, well, WINDOWS which leads to a really ugly story involving a transvestite street walker, but we won't go there right now)
I locked up the steering wheel good and tight. I made tentative arrangements with my brother to procure a replacement window, though the heater in the car works so well I have to say I hardly notice the window behind me is smashed. And I managed to turn in the parking permit on the very last day, getting my deposit back.
And so I parked that piece-of-crap vehicle in the same exact place I always park it, going crunch-crunch-crunch over my own window glass. But nothing changes. In fact, I have a renewed sense of security, knowing how quickly MPD recovers stolen vehicles. When I saw Mayor Rybak at his fundraiser, I reached out to shake his hand and exclaimed, "The Minneapolis Police Department recovered my stolen van in ONE DAY, MAYOR!"
"Well..." he said, then laughed. "Good! That's good!"
My Van Has A New Name
My vehicles always have names, but sometimes the names change due to notable incidents. This van was lost, and then it was found. It lived a shady life with thugs and gangsters, but then it returned to my possession, to continue neighborhood revitalization efforts. And so it has earned a new name, which shall be its name from this day forward:
The Prodigal Van.