For almost 10 years, Salifou Savadogo has operated a towing service and auto repair shop called Good Luck Towing on East Fayette Street in East Baltimore. Good Luck gets a call when bad luck strikes: dead batteries, empty gas tanks, accidental lockouts, flat tires, car crashes, and lately, stolen cars. A lot of stolen cars.

In July and August he would get calls for 12 to 14 stolen cars a week.

“It went so high, at one point in time I didn’t have space here for all of them,” said Savadogo, whose lot can store about 150 cars. “We had so many I couldn’t even count.”

The stolen cars he was called to recover were variously damaged, with missing ignitions or busted windows. Replacement parts and glass were hard to come by, so car owners often waited weeks or months to get their cars fixed. Some of the stolen cars had been crashed. Some had been abandoned. All of them, he said, were Kias or Hyundais. As summer ended, so did the calls to pick up stolen cars.

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“Teenagers went back to school,” he surmised.

This story is part of a deep dive on auto thefts.

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One week in late October, his lot contained just one stolen car, an older Hyundai Sonata sedan. A thief had broken and removed its ignition system, tried to drive off, and crashed.

Savadogo, 46, is from Burkina Faso. He has five children and lives with his family in Perry Hall. He moved to New York City in 1999 and drove a cab, moving to Baltimore in 2008 to do the same. In 2014, with the rise of Uber and Lyft, he shifted and got into the towing business. He now has seven employees who are mechanics and drivers. Good Luck is not among the operators contracted by Baltimore City to tow vehicles, so he found his own niche — insurance companies.

Most of the cars that end up in his lot are deemed total losses by insurance adjusters, which means he will ultimately tow them to South Baltimore to be auctioned. A few of the cars might see life on the road again; most will be salvaged for parts. In the meantime, he’ll make a modest amount just for storing the vehicles in his lot, between $25 and $45 a day. He also makes some money loading cars into shipping containers.

Savadogo looks at his business as a public service. Stranded drivers need rescue. Disabled cars need to be cleared off roads. The spike in auto theft in Baltimore gave his business a boost.

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“Yeah, it’s good for business,” he said. “I can’t say it’s bad. The car owners, they’re not happy. But that’s the job.”

Hugo Kugiya is a reporter for the Express Desk and has formerly reported for the Associated Press, Newsday, and the Seattle Times.

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