Any Advice to Someone who just got their Car Stolen?


“Dear PoPville,

Our car was stolen overnight on Monday in Truxton Circle. It was parked on the street right outside our house, last seen when taking the trash out around 10PM, and when we came out on Tuesday morning it had vanished. No broken glass or damage to the cars parked in front of and behind it, which were still in the exact same position. Definitely our first time dealing with this, though we’ve always assumed that on a relatively transitional street, at some point we’d find ourselves dealing with neighborhood crime in one form or another.

Any advice from the community of folks who’ve also gone through this on how to deal with it – besides the obvious (already filed) police report – would be much appreciated… It sort of feels helpless to just wait it out. Also curious to know if there’s been a recent uptick in car theft in the area, or if we were just unlucky?”

26 Comment

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you. How recently did this happen? Is a car necessary for your daily life or can you manage for a while without it? It sucks that your car is gone and it sucks that it happened right outside your home- that in itself can be a little unsettling.

    I’ve had my car stolen 2xs from 2 different neighborhoods. The first time it was stolen and involved in a police high speed chase and crashed (it was totaled) into a telephone pole. So the cops took the car to the station (I think, I can’t remember exactly where it was) and I basically had to clean it out and then just get rid of it because it was way too damaged to fix. The second was stolen and found relatively quickly with relatively minor repairs (broken window, stripped steering column). Both cars were older that were stolen and the cops told me that it is common for older and common type cars to get stolen. Also, frequently cars are stolen just to go short distances then discarded, so it is possibly yours will turn up! I don’t know what advice you are looking for (and mine were both found pretty quickly so I’m not sure I have a lot to offer) but I hope at least hearing someone elses story is helpful.

  • You can keep an eye out for tickets in case it was dumped and is accumulating tickets somewhere (search DC gov DMV via your license plate number).
    Talk to your insurance company and see what they require before accepting the vehicle as stolen, find out what your coverage will help with (rental car, etc).
    While not an option for everyone, having a stick shift means the number of people who can drive away with your vehicle is limited. Something to consider if you end up buying a new car.
    And…..this really sucks. Sorry to hear your car went missing. Hope it turns up unscathed in a nearby neighborhood.

    • brookland_rez

      Also check for speed camera violations. A friend of mine had his stolen and they were able to trace it based on where it last got a speed camera ticket.

      • Our car received two speed-camera tickets after it had been stolen, nowhere near where the car was eventually found a week and a half later, pretty banged up. It was kinda annoying to have to go get a copy of the police report to get the tickets dismissed, but what can you do.

        There needs to be better communication between DDOT (which issues speed-camera tickets) and MPD. I asked the cop at the station why they weren’t notified when our car, reported as stolen, received the tickets, and he said there’s no system in place to do so. I would think it wouldn’t be that hard to put all stolen cars into a DDOT database or something, so MPD can be notified quickly when a stolen car gets a ticket.

    • I was going to suggest this – our car was stolen about 7 years ago, and received 2 speed camera violations in about a 1 week period (just about 6 blocks form our house, which was incredibly frustrating). You won’t have to pay them, but make sure you get a copy of the police report you can send in – you have to do it yourself rather than the DMV/DPW/whomever getting it directly from the precinct. The tickets didn’t come in the mail for a couple of weeks, so it makes sense to go online regularly to check for updates.
      Beyond that, in my opinion there’s about a 7-10 day window in which you’d like to get your car back – after that, you’d like it to stay stolen and take the insurance money. GEICO has a 30-day waiting period before they’ll process a claim for a stolen car, so if it’s recovered on day 28, they’ll likely return it to you and pay for damage – but who knows what’s been done to it in that month. In our case, the car was abandoned/recovered after about 60 days, and given the condition it was in, I was just as happy that it was someone else’s problem. Good luck – hope it works out the best way possible.

  • I read a story a while ago about a woman in Cleveland Park who thought her car was stolen. I don’t recall the details, but figured it would be worth sharing what I remember. Woman thought her car was stolen, reported it to the police and the insurance company. Turns out the car was “courtesy towed” by DC police for being parked illegally, or one of those one day no parking events or something. This doesn’t sound like your case, but hear me out. It was apparently towed two or three streets down.

    The problem is DC didn’t have good record of the courtesy tow, and despite having called DC, they had no knowledge that the tow had occurred. None of the tow lots had record of her car, etc. So she reported the car as stolen. A few days later she gets notification that the car is parked two three streets down, so she goes and finds the car. Elated, she finds it and calls the insurance company to cancel the claim.

    The problem then became that when she called the insurance company, the company tells her that the car was now officially under the jurisdiction of the insurance company, and because it had been reported as stolen, she essentially could not reclaim the car because it was in legal limbo. Now I don’t recall all the details again or the full details of the resolution but this may provide some cautionary tale to pursue all avenues multiple times just to be sure. If memory serves, she ended up stuck because the insurance company dragged their feet with the paper work, she was told that legally the car was no longer hers by the insurance company and she was not authorized to move it. She was also told that if she did move it, there was some absurd legal consequence. To make matters worse, as it sat there, it accrued more tickets because it lingered in the courtesy tow spot and eventually became illegally parked. Basically a whole big cluster f.

    Sorry about your car, and hope things turn out for the best!

    • i had something similiar happen to me years ago, when i was in college. i parked my car on the street, forgetting that it was alternate side of the street parking during morning rush. woke up, went outside, realized what i did and called the tow number. they told me they didn’t have any record of it and that i should call MPD because it had been stolen. turns out they filed my car as having maryland tags as opposed to vermont, which they were. as with above, the car was parked a few streets over with a $100 ticket.

  • I just looked at the DC crime data mapper:
    It only goes back until 2011, but it gives the most precise spatial acuity.

    In Truxton Circle, there have been 4 cars stolen in the last year, 15 in the previous year, and 9 stolen two years ago. I wouldn’t exactly call this a downward trend, but I don’t thing you should expect your car to be stolen given your location. I guess that leaves you with unlucky. Very sorry this happened to you.

  • My car was stolen three years ago, and it was recovered four days later in Capitol Heights, MD. It was an older car, making it easier to take. Nothing was taken from the vehicle, making it likely that it was stolen just for fun. Unfortunately, “fun” for some people means differently for those like us. I’m glad I got it back, and hope the same for you.

    So long as you reported it, I’m afraid that’s all you can really do. Most squad cars in high profile areas are equipped with license plate readers that can pick up the number of stolen vehicles as they drive by (really quite fascinating). So long as it was left in a patrol-able area, I would suspect that you would get it back. I had no hope of ever seeing it again.

  • So sorry. My car was stolen as part of gang related activities in 2012 (the gang info was written on the steering wheel and down the dashboard). It turned up 5 days later with a ticket on it. The police were so helpful (Officer Fisher is a gem). The damage was pretty extensive, but I had it fixed instead of totalling it out. In my case, they “popped the ignition” and went on their merry way. If you have DC plates, monitor the DC ticketing website and it might show up there. Good luck!

  • I got my car stolen twice in a 6 month period while living in Columbia Heights. I got it back both times within two weeks. While it sucks, there’s nothing more you can do in the mean time. The first time it had some damage as they had side-swiped another car. The second time, the only damage was the ignition. The police yelled at me for not having a club on the car. It stopped happening after I got one. It’s summer, and it’s kids doing it. Which is why something as simple as a club can save your car.

  • if you get it back, check it carefully to make sure there’s no drugs, needles, weapons, broken glass, etc. left behind.

  • My car was stolen twice in July/August of 2012 in Brookland. After filing a police report and having a few officers canvas the area initially, I began communicating with every on-duty officer in the area it had been stolen. Coming off the metro or going into Giant I would inform officers what had happened and ask if they could keep a courtesy eye out and my plate number. Officer Thompson was able to locate it (rough condition) a few days later.

  • You didn’t mention what kind of car it was – if it was a popular car like a Camry or a Civic, or a high-end luxury car, it was probably stolen for parts and is being cut up by now. If it was just an easy car to steal like an 80s/90s Jeep Cherokee or Mitsubishi Eclipse, it was probably stolen for a joyride.
    Either way, I’m sure the police have already told you that if they don’t find it in the first two or three days, they probably never will. Hopefully you have theft insurance on the car and you added the rental car reimbursement rider to your plan. Rental car reimbursement usually only adds about $25 a YEAR to your premium, and if your car is ever stolen or crashed, you will find it to be one of the most valuable parts of your policy. It lets you wait it out and get around to shop for a new car for free, instead of the pressure of paying for car sharing or a rental on your own making you want to make a decision too quickly.
    Either way, if you have comprehensive, file a claim right away and push the insurance company to pay out immediately. You probably do NOT want the car back. Everyone I’ve known who’s had a car stolen and gotten it back wished they hadn’t. You don’t want to know what people do in stolen cars, and they’re usually trashed inside and out anyway. If the insurance company pays you out, then you have the option to accept the car back and return the money or to let the insurance company take the car, and you can look at the condition before you decide. If they haven’t paid out yet, they can decide to “fix” your car and make you keep it, but that often doesn’t include removing stains or lots of damage that you can’t prove happened as a result of the theft. Plus, sometimes there’s damage that isn’t immediately visible. If you steal the airbags, some cars have an airbag warning that comes on, but for some, the sensor that turns on the light is part of the airbag itself so if it’s missing altogether, no light comes on. So try to get paid right away so you can just buy something else and move on.

    • “You don’t want to know what people do in stolen cars” — This immediately made me think of “The Big Lebowski.” 🙂

    • I don’t know if “cut up for parts” applies in DC, because when my car was stolen, the officer who took the report says that they don’t even have chopshops near the city to take them to…my car was found a few days later, undamaged except for the starter they popped to get in.

      I had left the door open by mistake. 🙁

  • Bait Car: DC

  • pablo .raw

    I hope this helps you: One of my friends spent the night with his girlfriend and in the morning he found out his car was stolen. He called the police, etc. they found his car, he had to pay a lot of money to get it back. So he went to spend another night with his girlfriend and in the morning his car was not there again.

    • Why did he have to pay a lot of money to get the car back?

      • When MPD finds your car on a public street, they apparently pay a private company to tow it. You then have to pay the towing fee and the fee for them storing it. Happened to me. They did offer me the option of leaving it there and getting it myself (it was found in an alley), but I worried it might get stolen again before I got to it. 🙁

    • Plot twist: His girlfriend was in on the car thefts all along!

  • I’ve been through this situation before. Definitely call Maryland and Virginia police, especially PG County. You need to call your insurance company as well, they will be more efficient at trying to get it back than the police who have larger public safety issues to deal with, especially if there’s a lien on the car. Also do call the DMV and let them know, they can assist you in case someone attempts to get the registration changed. Keep an eye out for tickets. Also, post flyers with a picture of your car in local Starbucks, Metro bus shelters/stations, liquor stores, and corner markets (the type community members tend to dwell around) and offer a reward for information. Especially if it had unique stickers or dents, someone may recognize having seen it and/or know where it is.

  • My advice (for the future) would be to use The Club. If you put it on your steering wheel every time you park your car, your car will never be touched by thieves. It also helps to not leave ANYTHING visible inside your car. If you follow these recommendations, your car will never ever be touched. If you don’t follow them, then your car is vulnerable anytime you park it on the streets of DC.

  • My guess that your car will show up around Alabama Ave SE, likely Alabama and F. That is where they like to dump them.

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