Goodbye Acura RSX

In my last post I told you about the theft of my Acura RSX. It was stolen from our driveway in the early morning hours of Sunday, Sep 27. The police didn’t come out and collect any evidence, they just took a report over the phone. We did a little evidence collection on our own, finding a clipped wire, a plastic pop-rivet, and a pair of black latex gloves. If real life was like the CSI TV show, they’d just turn the gloves inside out and grabs some prints.

A few days later, my Acura RSX reappeared on the shoulder of 75 near Mockingbird Lane. It was stripped. The police had it towed to their impound lot but were otherwise uninterested in it. They didn’t check for finger prints or any other type of evidence. Their only concern was letting me know that I owed them a hefty storage fee that would increase by $20/day.

For now, I’m driving a Nissan Versa rental car paid for by State Farm insurance. State Farm picked up the car from the impound lot and moved it to a State Farm location yesterday. Before they picked it up, I made a trip over to the impound lot myself to check for any personal belongings the crooks might have left in the car. Oddly, I’m less annoyed by the loss of my car than by the loss of several hard to replace CDs, my prescription sunglasses, a Mega-Donkey t-shirt and an assortment of robot parts.

The Dallas Police impound lot is huge. It’s like a shopping mall parking lot but without the shopping mall. There are vans that transport people from the main office to the section of the lot where their car resides. Tow trucks are coming and going like cabs at the airport. It was an interesting experience. I brought my camera along and shot a few photos.

The woman who drove the van I was in described how to break into each of our cars. “Oh, on this model you pop off a panel and cross two wires to disable the alarm. On that one you use a jiggler key.” One of the other guys in the van had a club on his car. His car was stolen and the thieves left the club lying in his driveway. Our driver said, “Clubs are worthless. Just spray freon into the lock, tap it with a hammer and it opens right up”. She went on to describe how to overcome alarms, immobilizers, and all sorts of other things.

My RSX had an alarm plus an RFID-based immobilizer which is supposed to shut down the engine if it’s started without the encrypted key present. Yet, the thieves drove it away in seconds without even breaking the glass. Turns out you can buy a Honda/Acura jiggler key online for $30 that will open any Acura RSX easily. Once inside, it’s apparently trivial to disable the alarm and override the immobilizer. There are several methods of doing it that can be found online with a little googling. Brad Stone wrote a piece for Wired on the ease with which you can steal cars. Some methods are so easy they’re stupid – write down a vehicle’s VIN, visit the dealer and tell them you lost your key, use your new key to steal the car.

Yesterday, I spoke with the Irving Police detective about my case one last time. She was friendly and sorry about the theft. But at no point did the police send anyone out to the crime scene or the recovered car to look for evidence. When I described the black latex goves, she said they hadn’t heard of them being used but weren’t interested in investigating further. At the impound lot, I noticed my car was coated in a sticky substance similar to Cosmoline. I hypothesized this was to prevent or obscure finger prints. The detective said they’d never heard of this being done. I suggested it might be helpful to analyze the chemical and find out what it was. Perhaps it would offer a clue to where the chop shop was. She didn’t think it would be worthwhile. If my casual observation turned up two things the cops have never noticed, you have to wonder what a trained crime scene investigator might find.

I also noted that my car was found on a major freeway monitored by 24/7 traffic cams. I suggested it should be possible to check the traffic cam recordings to find the make and model of the vehicle which dumped my car there and perhaps even track it backwards to the point it entered the freeway, offering another clue to the chop shop location. She didn’t think it would be worthwhile to do all that work. I asked if anyone had thought of correlating the locations of theft vs the locations where cars are dumped. With dozens of cars stolen every day, you’d think that might be useful. She thought there was a “task force” somewhere that did stuff like that but it wasn’t her job to do anything like that. As far as the Irving and Dallas police are concerned, the case is closed.

Missing: Blue 2002 Acura RSX Type-S

If anyone notices my Blue 2002 Acura RSX Type-S license plate GSK-950 around the Dallas/Ft.Worth area, please contact me or call the police. It was stolen between 11pm Saturday, Sep 27 and 10am Sunday, Sep 28.

I slept late Sunday morning. Around 10am I went out in the garage to prep the lawnmower for the weekly mowing of our yard. I opened up the garage door and pushed the mower outside. Usually I push the mower down the driveway, between our two cars, and start mowing down by the front sidewalk. Today, however, I didn’t. There was something missing in the driveway. It took me a moment to put my finger on it. There was Susan’s red Acura but beside it, where my blue Acura RSX is usually parked, there was just empty driveway. This was such an unexpected, out of the ordinary thing, I walked back in the house and asked Susan if we had left my car somewhere. Surely we’d dropped it off at the dealer for service or something like that and I’d just forgotten. As I thought about it though, I knew that wasn’t the case. It was gone. Stolen; right out of our driveway while we slept.

We did all the things you’re supposed to do. I called the police. They took a report over the phone and gave me a report number. As with most crimes these days, that’s about all the police do. They’re really just heavily-armed data entry clerks as far as I can tell. They don’t really come out and investigate crime scenes like you see on TV, they don’t put out an APB like in old movies (“calling all cars, be on the look out for a stolen blue Acura”), they don’t look for clues and solve crimes like Sherlock Holmes. They just enter a description of the crime into a database and generate a report for insurance purposes. And they aren’t really open on Sunday anyway for minor things like auto theft.

They said they’d pass the report along to a “detective” on Monday but it didn’t sound like any actual detecting was likely to happen. However, they said if someone happened to pull over a blue Acura RSX for a traffic violation, they’d probably run the plates, might even notice it was stolen and perhaps would detain it. And they also noted that many stolen cars are found within a month or two, just not in one piece. They said mostly like it would turn up in a few weeks as a burned out hulk on back road somewhere. Nice.

Next I called State Farm insurance. Like the police, they don’t do much on a Sunday other than take reports on the phone. Apparently Saturday night/Sunday morning is a great time to steal cars since it gives you a 24 lead over the police and insurance companies. State Farm said someone would get in touch with me anywhere from a day to a week later. The weekend report-taking crew wasn’t able to give me much information about what happens next.

Last, I called our neighborhood association and let them know about the theft. They provide weekly news to the neighborhood residents about things like that, so maybe we can at least prevent another theft from occurring.

Since nobody else showed any interest in the crime scene, I decided to investigate it myself. The first thing I noticed was a half-inch long piece of wire. It was stranded copper wire with a black plastic sheath. It had clearly been cut with diagonal cutters on both ends. Nearby was what looked like a small plastic pop-rivet. My guess is they cut the wire to the car’s alarm system, opened the door, popped one of the plastic panels off the steering column, and hot-wired the ignition. I saved the “evidence” in a plastic bag in the unlikely event that anyone official got interested. Next, I examined Susan’s car. The crooks had unlocked it and there were marks in the dust on the passenger side window. Nothing was missing inside. I guess they didn’t want her car or could only take one at a time.

On Monday I called State Farm again. They told me there was a 14 day waiting period before they could process the claim. It seems most stolen cars are either discovered within this time period or never. Fortunately, they’ll cover a rental car in the interim and they offered to help me set up the paperwork at a nearby Enterprise car rental office.

I also called the police again and spoke to the “detective” assigned to my case. As best I can tell, the procedure used by the modern, high-tech police detective to solve auto theft consists of – doing nothing at all for 30 days. If doing nothing hasn’t solved the case in that time period, they figure it’s probably impossible to solve and file it away. But, if you’re lucky, the car thief will be stopped for a traffic violation or use the car in a crime and maybe end up in one of those high speed chases that ends with the suspect wrapping the car around a tree. In that case, the detective will examine the remains of the car for clues that might solve the crime. Yippee.