The Theft and Brief Return of Peter’s PT Cruiser

The day after labor day, Peter and I awoke to a rude surprise. Peter stepped outside to go off to his consulting job at 5 am (both of have learned to start early and work long on consulting gigs), only to find out his car had been stolen–right out of our own driveway.

To say we were miserable was an understatement. That day, we were already scheduled to go talk to the oral surgeon who’d botched Neil’s surgery, and who turned out to be an ass. And we’d spend a hard weekend, moving all our furniture and most of our possessions out and then back in to our home as new carpeting was laid. Peter had ended it replacing some rotten parts of our deck, and he’d been beyond exhausted that Monday night. As a result, he left his spare set of keys, hidden beneath some debris in his car.

We’ve lived in our current neighborhood for more than 15 years, and until 2009 it was completely crime free. But in early 2009, things changed. One day in February that year, I went out to my car and found someone had riffled through it and taken the GPS unit I kept there. Peter chided me because I don’t always lock my doors, but a few months later, his car window was smashed in and his GPS unit was stolen. This was both while our cars were in driveway. We were quite creeped out, but we weren’t the only victims.

This year, a couple reported someone had riffled through their car in the middle of the night and stolen an iPod and the face to their radio. And these were only those who bothered to inform the rest of the neighborhood. And then, that Labor Day night, our thief went on an all-out spree. Besides stealing Peter’s car, he also got into a neighbor’s car and stole her purse. The fact that it was even out in her car shows you how normally quiet our neighborhood is. It put a shock through our area, as we speculated who this scumbag could be. Was he within our midst? Was it a downtown gang targeting us? The San Jose police officer who’d taken our report suspected it was a teen joyride, and the car could be found within 24-48 hours. But the time passed, and the car was not found.

We mourned. Peter unhappily drove the rental car our insurance generously paid for. He didn’t want to replace the PT Cruiser. We’d taken our cross-country trip in it successfully. It could both haul a ton of stuff, and look stylish. Yet we couldn’t buy another PT Cruiser to replace the new one, both because Chrysler is discontinuing them, and because we’re fairly offended they took government money. We were also looking at thousands for Neil’s surgery, so having to put out thousands more was hard to take.

Eventually, in the end, Peter found that Ford (the one American car company which opted not to suck American taxpayers dry) had an intriguing new SYNC technology in their cars, which really is really cool, but more on that later. After 3 weeks had passed, our insurance company paid him for the stolen Cruiser, and he bought a Ford Escape, which actually turned out to be a better car, even though we were out thousands more. We, and the neighbors, assumed our PT Cruiser had been chopped into many little pieces, and the scumbag thief was happily wallowing in his ill-gotten gains. Oh, how I wanted a face to that thief!

And then, late last night, almost two months after the theft, I returned from the Boy Scout parents’ committee meeting to find Peter in a joyful mood. “They found my car!” he said. A police officer had spotted the car, with just a dealer plate on one side, and a plate which said it belonged on a Honda on the other, at a Safeway near our house. Thinking it to be somewhat odd, he decided to run the VIN, and found out it was Peter’s car. At the moment he’d called Peter, he’d had it staked out, waiting for the car thief to return.

And return he did! Peter dashed off to meet the police officer and confirm the skeezy white guy with the key to the car was no one Peter knew, much less anyone he’d ever given permission to make off with the PT Cruiser. He had to meet back up with me, so I could give him a ride back in order to pick up the car and bring it home. We had effusive thanks for the San Jose police, who are, honestly, always very good at their job.

I won’t publish the skeezebag thief’s name until he’s convicted but good (s0mething we have both vowed to make sure happens). So for now, I will call him Mr. Skeezebag. Mr. Skeezebag had been busy pimping Peter’s car, undoubtedly using money he’d gotten by illegal means, such as the copies of checks he had lying in the car. The truck was almost filled with huge speakers, and he’d upgraded the stereo. He’d also gotten rid of Peter’s GPS unit, and replaced it with a more upscale Garmin unit, itself probably the gain of his noctural theft prowlings. The car was full of gear for further car stereo pimpitude, as well as a lot of trash, receipts, and a whole bunch of stinking clothes. For unknown reasons, he’d thrown away the head rests to the two front seats, and everything Peter had once kept in his glove compartment, such as a really nice flashlight, as well as the car manual and registration.

In this internet age, it wasn’t hard to find out more about Mr. Skeezebag: we had his name, and Peter had seen his face. His Facebook feed showed lots of pictures clearly taken from within Peter’s Cruiser, dating back to early September. Despite being a very trashed-looking 27-year-old, he has/had an incredibly stupid 19-year-old girlfriend, who I know is flat-chested, thanks to a tag for 34A bra I found left behind in the car, and whose own profile picture shows her sitting in the Cruiser. I know at least one thing they did in the Cruiser, which is smoke heavily, because it reeks. He claims to be a construction foreman, so the company for which he claims to work will soon be getting an interesting inquiry.

Sorting through all that was left behind was another rich source of clues. A check-cashing company asked him for reimbursement on two dodgy-looking checks they’d cashed for him, which had been returned. Despite being from two different people, they both had similar feminine handwriting. Neither was a check from the account of my neighbor who’d had her purse stolen, but Mr. Skeezebag was probably breaking in to cars in many San Jose neighborhoods. He had kept one receipt of Peter’s, which had been in the car on the night of the theft–one for a rifle. Now whether he kept it as a warning to himself not to drive near the shooter’s house in his stolen car, or as a new idiotic plot to break in and try to steal it, we don’t know, but it’s creepy either way. He had a change of address confirmation, showing he’d moved here from Fresno, California’s scum city. Sorry, Fresno people, but every time I go to your town, it sucks, and Mr. Skeezebag supports that argument in his very person.

I told all the neighbors about Mr. Skeezebag. We’re still speculating on how he came to target our neighborhood. Did that careless construction company send its future felon on a project in our area? Was his skanky girlfriend one of the girls at the halfway house down the street, which is typically harmless, but which we all still view with suspicion?

In any case, Mr. Skeezebag should soon have a felony record, which should throw a real wrench into his thieving career, at least for a while. The insurance company, which now actually owns the car, is sending a tow truck tomorrow, and asked me to leave everything in (though I took Peter’s receipt and the likely-forged checks). And so, our PT Cruiser will be gone once more. And hopefully, with Mr. Skeezebag captured, my neighborhood will no longer be victimized by some scumbag with little sense and less morals trespassing into our property and stealing.

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