Handling Stolen Vehicles, Does This Pass the Smell Test?

Handling Stolen Vehicles, Does This Pass the Smell Test?
Posted on 02/01/2019

By CHPD Chief Robby Russo

Imagine heading out the door to work only to discover someone has stolen your car. As you pause and assure yourself that it was parked “right there,” a sense of fear and panic overwhelms you. 

You walk back inside, tell your spouse, notify work and then call the police.  An officer arrives and begins to inquire about all the pertinent information like value, contents, weapons or spare keys. Then, the awkward question about if you’re current on your payments (just in case it was repossessed). Before leaving, the officer provides you with a case number for your insurance provider.

The police enter your vehicle as stolen on the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC), so it can be recovered anywhere in the nation and returned to you. You’re still angry that some knucklehead had the gall to steal your ride; all the while your life is disrupted, and you have some anxiety and frustration that yours and your family’s personal space has been invaded.

When a report is made to the Cottonwood Heights Police Department, we ensure every officer is looking for that stolen vehicle and your owner’s information is attached to the case, so you can be contacted day/night when your car is recovered, by an officer with any police agency. 

Imagine if a police department found your vehicle and didn’t notify you? Instead, they opt to place a GPS tracker on your vehicle to catch the thief and leaving your vehicle where it was found in hopes that the offender returns to drive it again. Although this sounds shocking it is occurring in this valley. This tactic is being employed by police departments in order to catch these car thieves. In my opinion, this tactic has an ethical component that must not be ignored. I can’t wrap my head around justifying the use of a stolen vehicle, your property, for these purposes without an owner’s consent. The damage, risk or overall inconvenience simply outweighs the benefit of possibly apprehending the offender — not to mention the insurance company stance on who is responsible if any further damage may result in the recovery of the vehicle.

Although Cottonwood Heights has expressed our disapproval to these select agencies for unwittingly exposing our citizens to greater hardship, the tactic is still being used. This is one of the reasons we formed our own police department, to have local control, not regional policing.  This way we can ensure that our community values are reflected within our police culture.