Illustration of woman standing in front of empty parking space, hands on her head. Title says "My car got stolen. Now what?" A Banner reporter's step-by-step guide to dealing with auto theft. Comic by Laila Milevski, reporting by Royale Bonds.
I had just accepted a job offer at The Banner and couldn’t wait to move to Baltimore and hit the ground running on my new beat. Nothing could deter my excitement, not even some friendly advice from my dad, a car mechanic. I said: "Dad, I'm moving to Baltimore." Dad said: "You should use a wheel lock, Royale." From Jan. 1 to Nov. 7 of this year, 9,523 motor vehicle theft incidents were reported in Baltimore. Still, I was shocked to find my own car missing. I said: "This must be a mistake."
So I called 311 and the towing companies listed at the parking lot. When I realized my car was stolen, reality set in. Woman cries in parking lot. If your car has been stolen, the first thing you should do is file a police report. They’ll ask for the make, model, year, color of your car, license plate number, distinct features and the Vehicle Identification Number. Don’t forget to get the police report number.
Next, file a claim with your car insurance company (you’ll need the police report number). Report the theft to your finance or leasing company so you’re not liable for payments if your car isn’t found. My insurance provided me with a rental car. I was prepared for my car to be gone forever. Liberty Mutual estimates only half of stolen vehicles are recovered.
I beat the odds! Police found my car the same day. Next I had to retrieve my car from the impound lot. To obtain a release form you have to prove that you own the car. I did this at the Pulaski Highway Impound Facility. The city employee asks for photo ID and title or registration. You have to get your release form notarized and email or bring it to the impound facility. Then they will coordinate with a towing company to release your car.
But that’s not the end! The fallout from vehicle thefts has backed up Baltimore’s auto shops. Six weeks later, I’m still waiting for the mechanic to assess the damage to my window and ignition. To protect against car theft, the Baltimore Police Department suggests: Always lock your car. Don’t leave your car running by itself. Leave your car empty or hide valuables like cellphone chargers.
DARCARS Automotive group suggests parking your car in a well-lit, busy area with other cars, plus: Install a car alarm. Install an engine immobilizer to stop the engine if the car is stolen. Use a steering wheel lock. (You may be eligible for a free lock from the police, or to be reimbursed for your lock by Hyundai or Kia.) Learn from my experience: Don’t wait until your car gets stolen to take precautions.

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