Car theft victims turning to social media to recover vehicles
DETROIT (WXYZ) – As car theft remains a major problem in big cities like Detroit, victims say they are turning to social media to track down their cars.
Dominique Howard says last weekend she fell victim to car thieves while enjoying a night out.
“My friend and I went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday and we went to Demi’s Restaurant and Bar off Telegraph, neither of us were there but there was no available parking in the car park so we parked on Woodbine Street,” Howard said. .
After spending just two hours in the restaurant, Howard says she arrived at an empty parking lot where her car had previously been left. Howard said thieves stole her car and left behind only broken glass.
“I burst into tears because I work hard for my stuff,” Howard said. “I work two jobs and I go to school and my book bag was in the car, my notebook and I have an exam today that I can’t even really study for.”
The same thing happened to Diamond Samuels last Saturday. She says thieves took her car right from the front of her apartment building.
“I tried to auto start it because I left to take my son to his auntie so she could watch him while I got things done and my truck wouldn’t start. I went down to see what was going on and it was completely gone,” Samuels said.
Samuels says she is now without a way to get to and from work, the grocery store or run errands for her mother, who has disabilities.
“I’m really frustrated. I am because it’s heartbreaking. This is literally my first truck and it’s just gone. I’m literally struggling and now I’m struggling more because of this situation. People just don’t care,” says Samuels. “I just know that my truck is completely in pieces like I just feel like the catalytic converter is gone, my tires are gone. I even bought a new car seat for my son, he’s one, it’s gone.”
After making police reports, both women turned to social media to try to locate their cars. They are part of a group of nearly 50,000 people on a Detroit Facebook page dedicated to tracking down stolen cars.
While Samuels’ 2004 Chevy Trailblazer is still missing, Howard says she found her Hyundai Tucson about five minutes from where it went missing. She says that after she posted in the group, someone reached out to her and said the car had been left in their garage by the thieves.
Howard said when she got the car back, there were bullet casings inside, damage to the outside and the thieves trashed the inside. Several personal items were also stolen, including her headphones, school notebook and spare keys.
Detroit Police say auto theft has always been a problem, not just in Detroit, but throughout the metropolitan area and many other major cities. They say in recent years small cars like Hyundais and Kias have been the target for criminals.
“Given the amount of cars stolen throughout metro Detroit, how realistic is it that you can track cars once they’re stolen?” 7 Action News reporter Whitney Burney asked Detroit Police.
“It’s very realistic. We’ve had some really good arrests through the technology, the Sirius system in the cars. A lot of vehicles can be tracked,” said Sgt. Otha Craighead with DPD’s Commercial Auto Theft Unit.
Police say to avoid becoming a victim of car theft, drivers should do the following:
- Invest in steering wheel locks
- Use audible car alarms
- Park in well-lit areas, garages or covered parking, where possible
- If you see something, say something
“We also ask that the citizens will help us if they have information about people who do this,” Lt. Dana Russell said.
The police say if your car is stolen, call the police because it can be dangerous to get your vehicle back on your own.
“I know it’s frustrating for people to have to go get their own car back, but they don’t have to get their own car back. Call the police. It’s safer. Safer is the key word,” Craighead said.
Anyone who becomes the victim of car theft should call 911. Police say if you have information about thefts happening in your area, you can call the station directly or silent observer.