If you think it takes smarts to steal a car, you're dead wrong. Getting away with it — that's another story.
Despite what Hollywood blockbusters such as "Gone in Sixty Seconds," "Heat" and "Catch Me If You Can" would have us believe, most criminals are not masterminds playing a well-orchestrated cat-and-mouse game with members of law enforcement, while working toward the heist of a lifetime. If movies were made about real criminals, the majority would be far more slapstick, like an episode of "America's Funniest Home Videos," but with guns.
Here are eight real car thieves who prove that those too lazy to get what they want through hard work and determination are prone to costly shortcuts and mental lapses when it comes to committing crimes.
8. Determined? Yes. Smart? No
Carjacking is the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence. According to Federal statute, carjackers can go to jail for up to 15 years, if convicted.**
It's safe to say that Tyrone Davis' problem was not one of grit but of focus. After all, he had a very long two weeks in December 2006, what with robbing two convenience stores, breaking and entering into a private residence, assaulting the 41-year-old woman who lived there and then stealing her car. And we haven't even mentioned the part that lands him on this list.
After crashing the stolen 1992 Dodge Shadow into a curb while fleeing from police in Titusville, Fla., Davis, brandishing a knife, attempted to carjack a Saab stopped at an intersection. He got as far as gripping the door handle before the driver sped away. The driver, however, took off with Davis still hanging on to the door. And with the type of dedication that would almost be commendable if it weren't so dumb, Davis held on for several blocks and at speeds of up to 45 mph. In fact, Davis was separated from the vehicle only when a police officer tackled him.
7. Too Smart to Be Caught
The last time we checked, one important aspect of successfully committing a crime is evading law enforcement. Either things work differently in Duluth, Minn., or someone forgot to clue in an unidentified 23-year-old who took off with a boosted car, stole gas from a filling station and narrowly avoided being nabbed by police officers after crashing into a guardrail during a chase. Apparently he was so impressed with himself after his close call with the law that, after abandoning the vehicle, he repeatedly dialed 911 from his cell phone to brag about how he was too smart to be caught.
And he was right — at least for a couple of hours until the cops used such high-tech search tactics as tracking footprints in the snow to nab the thief in the shed where he was hiding.
6. Attempting Fraud . . . Using Real Identification Information
Brian Kauffield and his buddy had a plan: While Kauffield distracted the salesman at Riverchase Auto in Siloam Springs, Ark., by filling out a bogus loan application, his accomplice (an unnamed minor) would cop the keys to a 2007 Ford Mustang on the sly. Then it was just a matter of playing the waiting game until the dealership's co-owner, Brian Hutto, took his dinner break, at which point the two took off with the hot rod.
It was a solid plan that showed foresight, patience and execution, with only one minor problem: The loan application Kauffield filled out wasn't bogus. The genius had used his actual name and Social Security number, along with other real-life information that allowed the authorities to track the two down shortly after the incident.
In terms of criminal finesse, it's pretty much akin to writing a ransom note on your personal stationery. You can't make up this stuff.
**Images do not depict the actual persons nor events discussed in this article.
5. What's My Name?
According to a recent Michigan State University study, tattoos cannot uniquely identify a person (unless it is a tattoo of your own name). But it can help the authorities narrow down the list of potential suspects.**
Aaron Evans, 21, broke into a "bait car" in Bristol, England, sporting some incriminating "ink." A bait car is a vehicle that law enforcement officers use to entice car thieves to do their job. The car is positioned in a high-crime area by police and usually booby-trapped with a GPS locator, an automatic engine disabling device and — unfortunately for Evans — several hidden video cameras.
Obviously, Evans didn't know he was breaking into a honey-pot car (which is the point), but choosing a life of crime and having a highly visible neck tattoo of your name and date of birth seem like fairly mutually exclusive options.
Maybe he can get a cover-up tattoo — perhaps his National Insurance number (the UK equivalent of a SSN) positioned above a map to his house.
4. Lights, Camera, Action
The one thing separating Yusef Kaduji from the others on this list is that he was good at stealing cars. He and the other four members of his notorious crew were responsible for a 3½-year spree that saw a rash of luxury vehicles stolen from London's most posh neighborhoods. The list included Porsches, Mercedes-Benzes, Land Cruisers and even an SLR McLaren; all told, the 34 boosted cars were worth more than $2.18 million.
Kaduji was personally responsible for taking off with the SLR McLaren — a supercar worth about $508,400 — and was so proud of the fact that he used his cell phone to record himself behind the wheel of the stolen car. The video of him putting the SLR's pedal to the floor on a crowded street was later seized and used as evidence by the English authorities to sentence the 21 year old to two years in prison.
Too bad this guy didn't have a Twitter account, or Exhibit A might have looked like this: "OMG guys I'm totally stealing a car right now LOLZ!"
3. Failure to Overpower a Woman
While fighting back might sound empowering and heroic, it could most likely get you killed. All law enforcement sources we talked to said not to resist a carjacker because your life is more important than your car.**
This is not the sort of story a carjacker wants following him into prison.
As her daughter shopped at a Jacksonville, Fla., convenience store, Pat Wells sat waiting in the car outside. A man she had seen panhandling in the parking lot suddenly jumped into the driver's seat of the running car, demanded a ride and tried to put the car in gear.
Most people in that situation would think of their own safety and try to escape. Wells instead did what, say, Batman would do, and immediately tried to beat the living daylights out of the guy — attempting to push him out of the car, grabbing at the keys, yanking him around, and beeping the horn for help. The carjacker eventually got the car into gear and onto the road, which was a big mistake, because it apparently only enraged Wells even more. After forcing the car over to an embankment (to keep him from entering the interstate) and offering the carjacker $40 to stop the car, Wells pulled out a ballpoint pen and threatened to stab him in the eye unless he gave up and got out, which, marking his first smart move of the day, the man did.
2. We Can't Possibly Get Any Better
After Alan Heuss was forced to exit his BMW at gunpoint, he did what many of us would do: He got together with buddies to gripe about the theft, plus the cash and cell phone he had lost along with the car.
Luckily, Heuss has clever friends. One suggested texting Heuss' phone, posing as a friend who wanted to bring several hot women and drugs to a get-together. The carjackers, who seemed never to have heard the phrase "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," amazingly saw nothing wrong with the set-up and proceeded to text back their location. Shortly thereafter, local law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio, showed up and caught the thieves red-handed.
To their credit, the dimwits did not ask the group of "hot chicks" to bring them pizza and beer along with the supposed drugs, because that would just be silly.
1. Man Steals Car From Police During News Interview
Talk about chutzpah. This one happened in a police department parking lot, of all places, and in the background during an interview with a national news crew, of all times.
Gilbert, Ariz., police spokesman Sgt. Mark Marino was giving a statement to CNN on an unrelated incident when an unidentified suspect tried to steal a car from the police station's parking lot.
Call us old-fashioned, but the key goal of boosting a car is, you know, getting away with it. This guy wasn't out of the parking lot, or even first gear, before he had both a patrol car chasing him and an APB put out on the vehicle.
**Images do not depict the actual persons nor events discussed in this article.
Josh Condon has covered everything from nanotechnology to champagne and caviar for the likes of The New York Times, Popular Science, Men's Journal, Cargo and RL Magazine. He's recently relocated from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Los Angeles and is spending way, way more time in his car as a result.
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