Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview with a Car and Motorcycle Thief -- San Diego, February 9, 2011

Interview with a car and motorcycle thief -- "Joseph"

So yesterday I spent some time in San Diego interviewing a car and motorcycle thief now reformed and determined to live a proper life. "Joseph" taught me much in the 50 minutes or so we had together. But above all, I commend him for his decision to honor his wife and stay away from both drugs and crime.
"Joseph" started on drugs at age 14 and it was drugs that led him to other illegal activities. He began stealing cars because he was into street racing, and wanted parts, engines, and accessories that were taken from Hondas or Accuras. In particular, Accura Integras from the 1990s had twin cam engines that the street racers of the day wanted for their rides. Ironically, "Joseph" had his own car stolen from him, even though it had two kill switches and an alarm! And, he was sleeping only 6 feet or so from where the car was parked.
It is a disgrace that Honda in particular had such a flimsy lock set up. It doesn't take much to overcome the ignition lock -- a bar and screwdriver, or a fabricated piece of aluminum taken from a pop top.
Motorcycles became the chief object of "Joseph's" desires, however. And Joseph will admit that it was greed -- simply wanting what others have -- that set him on his course of motorcycle theft. Since one can get $1,200 to $1,800 for a very good cycle in Mexico (of course the Cartel is involved -- auto/motorcycle theft 3rd in revenue after drugs and kidnapping), this is a profitable vocation. But in reality while "Joseph" made 96k a year, due to his drug habit all he had to show for it was two shirts, a pair of trousers, and a pair of shoes.
What do you steal -- Harleys? No, because they are simply too slow. A Harley can only top out at 120 mph or so -- cop cars can go 140 mph. You want to steal a "crotch rocket" that can go 190 on the freeway if necessary. And, by the way, once you steal the motorcycle, the first thing you do is fill the gas tank, because you do not want to run out of gas if you are chased by the cops.
Note that for a number of the manufacturers, they make it far too easy to steal their products. "Joseph" argued that all that is needed is some minor re-designs of ignition systems to stop most thieves cold. Why is the motorcycle industry so resistant to making these improvements? Is it because they end up selling more bikes? Is it because the owner buys a replacement more costly than the one stolen?
There is much more detail that I need to consider that was recorded from this interview. One final item -- most of the car theft rings in San Diego are run by women. They manage, but do not go out and do the actual theft of vehicles. Why women? Because they are smarter!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! San Diego is an unusual market because it is affluent enough, yet also close enough to Mexico to make a run. In a way, the most telling part about it was that clearly Joseph was stealing for drugs rather than for money, and that says a lot about the negative impact drugs like crystal meth will have on society.