Monday, June 22, 2009

Vehicle Theft - A Learning Lesson

Five years ago, my Acura Integra was stolen in San Jose. The car was stolen on late Thursday evening and found in Stockton late Saturday evening. When I first visited the car a few days later, it was stripped clean. The bumpers, rear lights, stereo, speakers, tire & rims, and many other parts were taken. 

Diablo Auto Body - Stockton - restored the car back to its pre-stolen status. The shop experienced some complications with fully repairing the car due to locating after-market parts. the only part that had to be purchased from the dealership was the Acura Integra LS SE stock rims. The rims cost around $2500. After everything was said and done, the repairs cost $11,500.

My insurance agent was trying to rip me off on the rims. He assumed that I had junky stock rims and donuts on the car. Essentially, the car jackers placed those rims & tires on the vehicle. They ditched the vehicle near an old abandoned warehouse. Please take a picture of your car. You never know when you'll be in the same situation. Don't allow a insurance company to take advantage of you.

After the car was recovered and placed in a storage facility, it looked as if it would never be in proper working order again. I could remember the first day I looked over the car. It was completely shocking to see a car stripped down to the bare bones, especially one that you owned. I took pictures of the car. I removed what possessions were left behind, which there not many, besides a couple of college books. 

A few months later, Diablo restored the car; they replaced everything. Since I was excited about the car, I forgot to check to see if everything was functioning. When I drove the vehicle home, I decided that it was wise to buy an alarm. I noticed that I was missing a few items in the interior of the car. The sun visors and trunk items were missing. The CD player didn't work. 

While driving at the college, I was almost hit by a BMW - the car seemed to keep backing up to the point where it looked as if were trying to intentionally hit me. I tried to honk at the car, but the horn didn't work. I knew at that moment, I didn't have a second to waste. 

I tried to warn the driver. He continued to back up. I must have reversed the car for 40 feet. Since I was a college students, the campus police would have believed the BMW driver over me. 

Later that night, I drove home. I found out that the high beams didn't work as well. Just a recap of what didn't work: missing sun visors and trunk pieces, CD issues, horn and high beams didn't work. I saved the best for last. 

After taking a late night class at the college, I drove home. The drive home usually take around 2 ours - 100 miles. At the midpoint, I decided to pull off the road. I was extremely tired. It is a known fact that drivers that are sleepy can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers. 

Pleasanton was one of those nice cities I could trust. You have to pay attention to your surroundings. Don't take any chances with parking in bad areas. I pulled into an empty parking lot near a restaurant.  After sleeping for a few hours, I heard a voice tell me to put my hands up. I thought I was dreaming at the time. 

In the rearview mirror, 3 police vehicles covered me from distance. The officers had guns pointed on the vehicle. I put my hands up n the air. The voice instructed me to remove the car key from the ignition with my right hand and to pass it over to the left hand. 

Once the key was in the left hand, I was told to drop it out of the window. I was instructed to open the door with my left hand, slowly step out of the car, and walk backwards. During this entire time, I had to keep my hands up in the air. 

After I reached the midpoint, I was instructed to drop to my knees. Restaurant customers were told to stay back as they hinted that I was dangerous. The voice told me to cross my legs and to put keep my hands behind me. A police officer slowly approached and cuffed me. I told him that this was the first time that I was cuffed for anything. He told me to stand and started to walk me over to the police vehicle. 

At that exact moment, I immediately caught onto what the police thought I did - steal my own car. I told them that the car was recently stolen. I instructed the officer to look at the registration and the auto repair list in the glove compartment. 

What I discovered was that my car turned up stolen on the police computer system. I was never told that I should make sure I turned in the old plates. Whenever a car is stolen, the old plates are useless. You have to get new ones.

The police officer removed the old plates. He suggested that I drive without them until I visited DMV.  He noted that the vehicle flashed "stolen." It was his job to make sure he acted right away to diffuse the situation. 

A few days later, I was pulled over again. I didn't experience the same problems because the plates were removed. The officer wrote down my vin # to look up the car. Everything turned out good. I was instructed to make sure I visited DMV to clear up the matter. 

After a month, I had to drop off the car to be repaired again. The shop disconnected some wires, which completely ruined the horn. The horn sounded as if I were trying to attract ducks. The high beams still don't work to this day. The door opened after hitting bumps, which I had fixed at a mechanic shop. Anytime you experience car theft, please makes sure that you change your plates. 

Don't try to make things easier for the insurance company. I thought that I should be nice and save the insurance company on towing costs. I could had the car towed towed 130 miles to a nearby shop. Instead, I had to drive back and forth, which cost me time and money.

Looking back, I'm glad that I accepted the car back. You have an option; the car insurance company could pay off what the repairs would have cost. Since I needed a commuter car, I thought it was wise to proceed forward with the repairs. 

Eight months after the theft, my engine fell apart. I didn't drive the car for one year. The repairs ended up costing me $1710. To this day, I still can't get a smog because the engine light refuses to shut off. 

Next time around - hope not - I will be more better prepared to handle the situation. Make sure you keep a list of what you have in your car. Take pictures of the vehicle beforehand. Don't have the car worked on in another city. 

Due to traveling, you want to be close to the auto shop to take care of any problems that may surface in the future. Hopefully you don't have the same luck as me. Drive safely and be alert about your surroundings.   



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