Over the last few months there has been an increase in the number of car thefts in Saint Paul and Ramsey County. The car thefts involved older models that were taken from residential driveways, city streets and parking lots and sold to one particular salvage company for scrap. Recently, ten individuals allegedly involved in the thefts were charged by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
In the last several months, over 50 cars have been stolen in St. Paul and sold for scrap at a local junk yard for a few hundred dollars. The stolen vehicles were often crushed at the scrap yard hours after they had gone missing. The vehicles were crushed without question because scrap metal yards are generally not required to ask for vehicle titles. A three month investigation of the stolen car and scrapping activities revealed three strategies employed by the accused.
According to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office the suspects scouted potential cars and then contacted tow truck drivers to have the targeted cars picked up. The suspects provided false information regarding the ownership of the cars to the tow truck drivers. The vehicles were then sold to the tow truck drivers, and the tow truck drivers would sell the cars for scrap. In another scheme, tow truck drivers stole cars from the street and sold them to the junk yard for scrap. In the final scheme, the suspects allegedly stole the vehicles and directly sold the vehicles for scrap.
The junk yard where the cars were sold for scrap assisted the police in their investigation. The scrap metal company filmed transactions and saved receipts suspects signed.
The stealing and junking of cars is a nationwide trend. The rising price of metal has made low-end or older cars attractive targets.
Source: Star Tribune, “10 accused of stealing cars for scrap,” Chao Xiong and Daarel Burnette II, Aug. 18, 2011