Dear PoPville – Stolen Car Gathers Parking Tickets

Photo by PoPville flickr user Wayan Vota

Dear PoPville,

My car was stolen during the Super Bowl this past Sunday. I immediately contacted the police to notify them that it was stolen. The police performed a canvass of the area where it was stolen and checked their database to make sure that it wasn’t towed away. The police told me that the car would be entered into a national database of stolen vehicles and that I would be notified as soon as they knew anything. The police also informed me that they didn’t have any leads and there wasn’t much hope for the Creedence. I contacted my insurance company shortly thereafter and they informed me that the car was entered into the database as well and that 90% of the time stolen cars are recovered. .

I received a call Thursday night notifying me that my car had been located. I went to assess the damage at the lot it was towed to today (Friday) and to my surprise there were parking tickets from Tuesday and Thursday on my windshield citing the location where the police found my car.

If my car was ticketed Tuesday morning why did it take until Thursday night to get in contact with me?

I asked the guy at the tow lot about the tickets and he told me that pretty much every single stolen car he gets comes in with multiple tickets on it. Why isn’t the system parking enforcement inputs their ticket info into synced up with the stolen vehicle database? That’s ridiculous.

I only had to wait a couple of days and I applaud the police department for finding my vehicle but some people have to wait even longer and gather even more tickets when their vehicle is stolen. I came across a story from August 11, 2011 in which the same thing occurred and the car racked up $300 worth of parking tickets. According to the story my tickets will be expunged if I provide proper documentation but that requires me to go get a police report and then to have to go dispute the claim in person. If the police and parking enforcement were synced up properly I would have never received a ticket and my car would have been located earlier.

In short, this seems like an easy fix. However, if the police and parking enforcement don’t fix this problem then I suggest that victims of car theft in DC go online to see if their car has any outstanding tickets while it is missing if they want to find their car faster.

31 Comment

  • My car was stolen and the police entered it into a database but I found the car and they came and fingerprinted it. A week later I was pulled over in front of my house by 15 officers in 8 cars because they never took it out of the database.

  • not the least bit surprised about the tickets. I think DC is the best at handing out parking tickets. Sorry about the Creedence, hopefully no one micturated on your rug.

  • A very similar thing happened to me. I parked my car around the block from my apartment and went back to get it the next day, only to find my car gone and a bunch of those Emergency No Parking signs up. Clearly the city had towed my car, but they claimed they had no record of it.

    After one week of calling various city agencies and trying to recover the car I finally reported it stolen. My insurance company contacted me a month later to tell me that the car had been given four parking tickets about seven blocks away. DC had towed it to a meter and left it there (apparently they call this a “courtesy tow” — that’s some courtesy), never recorded it, and been giving it a ticket once every few days for being parked illegally at the meter. It was never booted or towed again.

    Fortunately I was able to get all the tickets dismissed because I had a police report. Now when I tell the story, I say “DC stole my car.”

  • I actually had the same thing happen about 5 years ago. I reported my car stolen and started the insurance process. Then, about a month later I got a speeding camera ticket triggered by the thieves. That got me to check for parking tickets online which there were 5. I mapped them out and found my car about 15 minutes later in Trinidad.

    I actually wrote some letters about the disconnect between parking and police but was only informed that there is in fact, no connection. I was told that if parking enforcement saw ‘several’ parking tickets on a car they ‘might’ call police.

    This will disconnect will become more more relevant when you try to get the tickets excused. I had to go to the police station, get a copy of my report, and take it to the parking office to get the tickets released (parking can not look up stolen car reports). They even tried to charge me for the police report (luckily, I remembered the victim gets a free one). Same process, different office for the speeding camera ticket.

    IT has come along way. When parking enforcement enters a license plate how hard would it be to send an alert if it’s stolen? Hell, manually check two spreadsheets together at the end of the night. I can’t imagine how many stolen cars could be located this way.

  • DPW is a city agency charged with the ticketing, while MPD can ticket cars, their databases are completely seperate, but you are right…there is absolutely zero reason that they don’t align their database.

    On a related note, I had my car stolen 5 years ago. Happened 5 minutes after I parked it (it was actually an employee of the parking garage where I parked it). Fired up the lojack, called the MPD and they had the 2 perps in handcuffs and my car back in less than 45 minutes.

    lojack used to be the only business in town but there are a lot of aftermarket theft recovery devices you cna buy for less than $200 bucks. The only slight issue is that police agencies already have lojack transponder trackers but the GPS units you can buy anywhere work just as well.

  • Glad you got your car back!!! But this is DC and when it comes to city services, nothing makes sense. :*/

  • Unfortunately this is a very easy software fix. It’s sad that the two agencies don’t have a better working relationship.

  • In a city that tolerates children with guns, you expect such efficiency?

  • Actually, this happened to me a few years ago, but I was able to resolve it all via mail. I just submitted the forms and a copy of my police report, and sent it in. A few weeks later, I checked via phone to see if it had all been recieved and they had been successfully removed. I would try online for the mail adjucation process first.

  • It’s not surprising that the databases aren’t linked up; there’s probably a reluctance to hook a non-law enforcement/criminal system together with civilians. That, and I’m betting the civilian DPW tag reader software isn’t designed to check against the HOT list that MPD tag readers use. I’m betting that in order to get that fixed it’ll require 15 RFPs and $2 million in contracts to implement a software fix that some codemonkey could do in a week.

  • If the ParkMobile app can (most of the time) link up with the parking cops’ system immediately to let them know I’ve paid for parking, there is no reason that MPD’s database of stolen cars can’t do the same.

  • This is not just a DC problem, as simple as it is. It seems like every big city has the same damn failing. Google stolen car ticketed, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Don’t worry, IBM’s working on this.

  • You call your car “The Creedence?” Did they steal your rug too?

  • One day our car disappeared from the spot my wife parked it near U Street. Seemed strange someone would want to steal an old 2002 VW station wagon. Police came, and they checked their database to make sure it wasn’t simply towed (because we did have some unpaid parking tickets). But it wasn’t in their database. Cop said, “someone bothered to steal a 2002 VW station wagon? Huh. Oh well.” Weeks later we get a call from our car insurance fraud division. They assumed we were trying to pull some kind of scam, and told us to double check the DC police’s impoundment lot. I call the lot and asked if they had a grey VW station wagon matching my plate number. They said, “No, nope, don’t think so. Well, we do have a SILVER VW station wagon…” Turns out they mis-entered one number from our license plate. That oversight kept our car in the impoundment lot an extra two or three weeks which we had to pay. But if it hadn’t been for my insurance company investigating me for fraud, we would never have found our car.

  • My tags were stolen recently. So dumb, but you have to write to adjudication to have your tickets cleared, using the police report number as evidence.

  • FYI: If you had a BMW stolen recently you may want to check on north side of U St NW (Between 15th and 16th). One’s been collecting tickets there for the last week.

  • Doesn’t surprise me at all. I was nearly arrested for driving with a “fake” driver license because the MPD could not find it in their database. the cop said he eventually realized that the license was “only” a month old and that was why he couldn’t find it in his database… I love this city but it really is a petri dish for crime.

  • my car was stolen about two years ago from a spot in Columbia Heights. a few days after it was stolen it got 2 parking tickets ($250 ea.) for being in a handicapped space. it was subsequently stolen again, and recovered after being involved in a wreck in PG County. by the time I recovered the car (actually just the plates – it was totalled) from the impound lot, the tickets were long gone. because they went unpaid, I had to fight off over $1000 in fines, in person, with a hard copy of the police report, which I had to pick up from the district substation.

    be glad the tickets were on the windshield!

  • Am I the only one who regularly checks online to see if my car has been ticketed? I drive it once a week (if that) and just assume some meter maid is going to get all excited about something stupid (e.g., not having my parking sticker affixed to my window) and ticket me. Of something like 15 tickets in the last eight years, I’ve had 13 dismissed. It takes an exteremely clear, polite and informative letter to the District explaining the situation; photos help.

  • Same thing happened to me as everyone else here: Car was stolen, and then we soon began getting speed-camera infractions in the mail, complete with pictures of our stolen car being driven by someone else.

    We had to get a copy of the police report, but the tickets were eventually wiped out. I agree that they should coordinate all these databases. Every stolen car’s license plate number should immediately be entered in whatever database DPW or whatever agency uses for parking tickets/speed-camera tickets. I would bet this speeds up the rate of recovery, and might actually help catch a few of the car thieves (though, seeing how may of them are likely juveniles, it won’t matter anyway because juveniles are untouchable by the law in this city).

  • This is a Bummer, man.

  • austindc

    Kind of seems like you should be thankful you got your car back. Then man up, do a little paper work, and quit whining. I don’t mean to be harsh, but at least they have a way for you to cancel the tickets, and at least everything worked out okay. It’s not ideal, but if a little paperwork is the worse thing that you have to deal with, I’d consider yourself lucky.

  • My car was stolen this morning. Other than reporting it to the police and the insurance company, is there anything else I can do to be proactive about the recovery? Is there some place I can blast this so the whole city sees it?

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