Stealing abandoned vehicles

Wednesday, November 23rd 2005, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

There's nothing more annoying than your car breaking down, but for some, that's just the beginning. This week, a woman had her car stolen from the side of a Tulsa highway.

As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, it happens more than you might think.

Maggie Markham ran out of gas near the intersection of US Highway 169 and the Broken Arrow Expressway. So she walked to a nearby convenience store. “And the time it took me to get a ride back out there and get the gas can filled up, the car was gone."

"I'd say we probably see a report a week." Sgt. Jeff Cealka with Tulsa Police says it could just be theft or can you believe that sometimes the person who took the car calls the victims.

Maggie Markham: "the police told me they've had a few incidents of a white tow truck driving around and picking up cars along the highway that are breaking down and calling up the owners of the vehicles the next day and charging them some ourtrageous fee for storage." Sgt. Cealka says it's illegal to tow an abandoned car from the side of the road unless it's authorized by law enforcement. And he says police regulate the fees that are charged by the tow companies they contract with.

Of course, the clever part of this scheme is that nobody driving by would give a second thought to this car being towed, so police say if you do see a car being towed, take a second look, especially if it's being towed by an unmarked truck. Sgt. Jeff Cealka: "That's a huge flag to call, because something is definitely up."

And yes, Tulsa Police say, taking someone else's car, even a broken-down one, is still larceny. "I mean, especially when you're not authorized by the police to pull it off the highway, it's extortion, bottom line."

So far, Maggie says she hasn't gotten a call about her car or from anyone trying to charge a storage fee.

Incidentally, Tulsa Police say if you have a cell phone, it's good to call for help and wait "with" your car.