Tenn. Criminals Steal Cars by Calling Tow Trucks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. --

Stealing cars has apparently never been easier. Criminals aren't using fancy tools or new technology; they're just calling the tow truck and having cars towed away.

They weren't asked for proof they owned the car.

The law does little to protect a car's owner when the vehicle is at least 10 years old. Thieves can call in a wrecker service and have it towed right out of an owner's yard; they don't even need a title.

"I was like, 'Where's my car? Where's my car at?'" said Nicole Hunter.

She said she walked out of her Madison apartment to find her 1991 Infinity missing. She finally tracked it down at a scrap yard in La Verge.

"They was like, 'Some guy came up there and had said his grandfather gave him the car and it didn't run anymore and he was trying to sell it,'" Hunter said.

Hunter quickly learned it doesn't take much at all to have wheels stolen right out from under you.

"I said, 'I have the title. I have the registration. I have the keys to the car,'" said Hunter. "I have everything that belongs to the car; the man didn't have anything."

Metro police said they've seen 11 similar cases within the last three weeks. It's all about quick money for the thief who can net $100-$600 by scrapping the car's metal.

"It's pretty sad if you have a vehicle that's 10 years or older, anyone can come up and sell that to a scrap metal person," said Sgt. Billy Smith of Metro police.

Police have arrested John Johnson and Laclevous Mckissack and have outstanding warrants on David Mitchell and John Deloney.

The tow truck companies aren't doing anything illegal. Police said on cars that age, the law only requires a bill of sale, which thieves often forge, sometimes scribbled on a napkin, and an ID. Many of those are fakes as well, police said.

"I don't care if my car is 20 years old," said Hunter. "If I paid for it, I don't think someone should just be able to up and sell my car."

Neither do police. They're asking tow and salvage companies to be more diligent.

Police said the victims often have little or no insurance because their cars are older. So if the vehicle gets scrapped before an owner finds it, often they are without their only means of transportation.

Metro police said they're working with investigators in Chattanooga and lawmakers to try to get legislation requiring a title in order to get a car towed and scrapped.

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