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Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Theft


What factors attract a car thief and increase my risk of becoming a victim of auto theft?

These actions attract thieves and can increase your risk of auto theft:

  • Leaving a vehicle unlocked and/or the windows down (even in a garage)
  • Leaving keys in the vehicle or a spare key hidden on the vehicle
  • Leaving a vehicle running unattended
  • Parking in poorly lit places with low visibility
  • Leaving valuables and packages in a vehicle

Many auto thefts are crimes of opportunity.  If you ELIMINATE the opportunity, you will REDUCE your risk.

How can I minimize my risk of becoming a victim of auto theft?

My car is missing, but I’m not sure if it was stolen.  What should I do? 

Vehicles are towed for parking violations, such as illegally parking (including parking in a handicap space or fire lane) or during a snow emergency.  You should call the local impound lots and towing companies to see if your vehicle was towed.

If you have missed one or more of your car payments, your vehicle may have been repossessed.  You should call your bank or finance company.  Many times vehicles thought to be stolen have been towed or repossessed.

What if I let someone use my car, but they haven’t returned it?

If you agreed to let someone borrow your vehicle and they have not returned it, this is referred to as a breach of trust.  A breach of trust is a generic term used for documenting the origination date of a civil dispute in which a vehicle is taken under circumstances other than auto theft.  If the vehicle is not returned within thirty days, the situation can be pursued as an auto theft.

To report a breach of trust, call your local police department.  If you choose not to file a breach of trust report, you may contact your local police department after 30 days to make an auto theft report. 

What do I do if my vehicle is stolen? How do I report it?

  • Call 9-1-1 to report a stolen vehicle.  
    • Only the registered owner may report a stolen vehicle.
    • It is helpful to know know the license plate number or vehicle identification number (VIN).
      • If you do not know the license plate or VIN, try looking at a proof of insurance card or the Certificate of Title.
  • When you call to report a stolen vehicle, the call-taker will ask for a license plate, what happened, and for a description of the vehicle. 
    • The more detail you can provide about the vehicle (stickers, unique damage, aftermarket parts, colors, etc.) the more helpful this is to law enforcement.
    • A deputy/officer will then be dispatched to take a report of the stolen vehicle. 
  • Call your insurance company.  Report the loss to your insurance company and give them the complaint number (CN) after you have filed a report. 

What happens after I report my vehicle stolen?

After you call 9-1-1, a deputy/officer will meet with you and verify your vehicle was stolen.  The deputy/officer will write a report and your vehicle information will be entered into a national database of stolen vehicles available to law enforcement agencies across the country. 

Next, an investigation is conducted.  The investigation will focus on any information that could lead to the successful identification and prosecution of the offender.  The case will remain open until your vehicle is recovered.  If your vehicle is recovered, the investigator will review the case and present it to the County Attorney’s Office for prosecution. 

How will I know when my car is recovered?

If your vehicle is recovered, you will be contacted by the law enforcement agency that you filled a report with.  Depending on the circumstances (such as time and location of recovery), the vehicle may be turned directly over to you or towed to an impound lot for safekeeping until you are notified and the car can be released. 

The impound lot is required to send notice by certified mail to the registered owner of a motor vehicle at the address on the registration that the car has been impounded.

No matter where your car is recovered, the law enforcement agency that you filed a report with is notified.  This is true whether your vehicle is removed across the county or in another state. Once recovered, the vehicle’s status is updated in a nation-wide database to reflect that it is no longer a stolen vehicle.

What should I do when my vehicle has been recovered?

It is recommend that you carefully examine your vehicle for property that does not belong to you.  This may be evidence of other crimes.  Search your vehicle’s interior carefully (using a flashlight) to ensure drugs, drug paraphernalia, or dangerous objects such as syringes, have not been left behind.  If you find anything that does not belong to you or is illegal, contact your local law enforcement agency.   

What should I do if I see my stolen car, or recovered it myself?

  • Call 9-1-1 
  • WHENEVER IT IS SAFE to do so, try to get a description of the person, exact location, direction of travel, and vehicle information (license number, color, make, model)
  • Do not approach the people or vehicle

It is very important that you notify law enforcement immediately.  You will need to meet with a deputy/officer to cancel the stolen vehicle report.  There are risks to driving a vehicle that is a reported stolen.

What about the towing and impound fees?

When a stolen vehicle is recovered, it may be towed or stored in an impound lot.  Fees for these services are charged.  Crime victims of stolen cars may seek reimbursement for these fees through their insurance company (if covered by their policy) or through restitution (if there was a suspect who was charged and convicted of the crime).

Reimbursement of auto theft impound lot storage fees may be an eligible use of emergency funds available through the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs.  Crime victims of stolen cars with emergency needs can contact the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Division or the Crime Victim’s Reparation Board for a reimbursement application.


 

 



Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office
Minnesota's First Law Enforcement Agency - Established 1849

Sheriff Matt Bostrom