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Thieves Smashed Into My Car and Stole $700 Worth of Stuff

This article was written by in Consumer. 19 comments.


While staying in Queens, New York a week ago, I discovered on Sunday that my car had been broken into. Some time between Friday night and Sunday morning, someone broke the front passenger side window and pulled out my car radio and a few other items I had left hidden in the car. In addition to the radio, they grabbed my iPod, GPS, and cell phone chargers. After several years of visiting Queens, I had become fairly lackadaisical about leaving items in the car, even hidden. Nevertheless, the suction imprint on the windshield, the out-of-state plates, and the fact that the car hadn’t moved since Friday night most likely signaled to the thief that my car would be a good mark.

I filed a police report and worked with the insurance company. They weren’t able to find a glass company that could come to replace the window until Tuesday; I found one that would come sooner, so the insurance company worked directly with them. There was no out-of-pocket cost for me to replace the window, but the stolen items were not covered.

This past weekend I replaced just about everything that had been stolen. In the process, I’ve learned or reinforced a few things.

People were amazed that I didn’t get upset about the ordeal. Stuff is just stuff. Nothing stolen was irreplaceable. At least no one I know was hurt. There’s a possibility, however, that the thief was hurt during the theft. There appeared to be a small drop of blood on the inside of the door under the broken window. We cleaned that right away.

Consider renter’s insurance or homeowners insurance. If I had renter’s insurance, the items stolen may have been covered. I should have researched this years ago. I’m not beating myself up about it because I had enough income in September to replace the items without dipping into savings, but that may not always be the case.

Don’t leave valuables in your car. I’m glad I didn’t have anything more valuable in my car. I don’t normally leave my laptop or camera, but those would have been significant losses for me. I switched to a larger laptop and I am getting into the habit of taking everything with me all the time.

This may not apply to everyone, but I plan on being more selective about where I park. My girlfriend lives in a decent neighborhood, but by the time I arrived at her house on that Friday night, the only parking spot I could find was close to one of the major streets through Queens and Long Island, in front of a business. It’s frustrating to have to drive around for a half an hour or more to find a decent parking spot, but I’ll have to wait until something in front of a residence opens up.

I’ve decided not to replace the GPS for now. While I had the device I didn’t use it as often as I thought I would. The cell phone I bought this year has basic GPS capabilities. As long as the cell phone has service, if necessary I should be able to use it to download a map of my location.

Published or updated September 1, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ron

Sorry to hear that, but it sounds like you have your emotions in check. Stuff is always replaceable.

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avatar Tiffany

When I had it, renter’s insurance covered my possessions that were in a vehicle. It was useful when $700 of camera gear was stolen. The insurance company sent me replacement equipment (identical to what was stolen, except for pieces that were discontinued, for which they sent upgrades), and I just had to send them a check for the deductible. And renter’s insurance is usually $5-15/month (I’m in the midwest), depending on the discounts, deductible, and coverage.

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avatar Patrick

Man, I’m sorry to hear that, Flexo. I have homeowner’s insurance which covers thefts from my vehicle (after I pay the deductible). My old renter’s policy had the same coverage. I rarely have enough items of value in my car to meet the deductible though. As you said, thankfully no one was injured. Things can always be replaced.

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avatar Transcendental Success

I hate thieves. I’m like you, I can afford to replace the stuff. But I find thieves to be so wasteful. They grab a few hundred dollars, but in the meantime they cause more money than that in damages. They spend about 2 minutes stealing from your car, but they cause you to spend many hours phoning glass repair places and insurance companies. It’s disproportionate and selfish.

To all thieves: If stealng is really the only way you can by then at least have the courtesy not to destroy things in the process. Be a classy thief.

A thief once stole a bike from my garage. It was a good one. Nothing broken, just a missing bike. I still didn’t like it (I did lose a bike), but it would have been way worse if they kicked in the door and threw everything down.

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avatar Orange

Ahh, this sucks, sorry that you had to experience that. But insurance is definitely a smart idea, especially renter’s insurance. And I loved your way of looking at it, yes you are right, stuff is just stuff.

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avatar CJ

I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve never been really upset when something of mine was stolen or broken. Like you said, it’s just stuff. It can be replaced. I’ve seen people get furious over $10 worth of stuff. It’s just silly IMO. Glad to see that there is a few other people out there who have things in perspective.

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avatar KC

I’ve had my car broken into on average about once every two years. It was far more common when I had an older car. It was always my fault – I left something in there. One time they broke in to steal some glasses and spare change. Another time I was stupid enough to leave my breifcase. Once they stole a bag with some papers. But always it was something small. Personally this country has a serious drug problem. Smart thieves don’t steal small meaning less things (like change in a ashtray) at the risk of being caught. Only high thieves would do that. But I always blame myself because if I leave anything in my car, it is my fault. And the problem is everywhere in America – its becoming a common problem even in rural areas.

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avatar jim

Sorry to hear that man, too bad about the insurance bit too but fortunately it wasn’t a mugging or anything horrible like that. When I go into Baltimore, I never leave anything in my car for this very reason. I had a friend leave a baseball mitt, a $25 baseball mitt, in his back seat and someone broke in just to steal that.

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avatar Matt

That sucks. I can always tell when someone has an XM radio by the suction cup marks, and it made me wonder about people who were more likely for a break-in. Now I know.

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avatar UH2L

Sorry to hear about that. As for being more careful where you park, try avoiding the NYC area in general! :-) My sister had the relatively worthless but functionally important fuses stolen out of her car while living in Queens and another friend had gas siphoned out. I guess I’ll be the 12th guy to tell you that you should have had inexpensive renter’s insurance, (especially with you being a financial blogger). I always tell people that in an apartment, you might have a neighbor that leaves their iron on every morning and heads out the door.

You might want to check into the coverage from the credit cards that you may have used to purchase the goods. I had a suit jacket taken at a conference and my GM Gold Card reimbursed me for it with a formal claim and the security report from the hotel. It’s worth a shot. Such benefits are another reason to buy larger, more expensive items with a credit card instead of using cash.

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avatar MF

Flexo,

I am sorry for your loss. Seven years ago, I had the window of my car smashed and a portable CD-player (hidden under the passenger seat) and some CDs stolen while I was at a club on the Near West Side of Chicago. In the grand scheme of thing, they were just “stuff,” but there’s also a sense of being violated when this happens to a person for the first time. Never again did I leave anything under the seat, and I was still finding tiny bits of broken glass two years later.

I was not aware that apartment insurance may cover theft of personal possessions from an automobile. I’ll check into this with my insurer.

-MF

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avatar Penny

Your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance doesn’t always cover possessions stolen from one’s car. I had quite a go around with a major insurer on this a few years back. My car was in my garage and my garage door was jimmied open. There was little in the garage but a lot of stuff in the trunk of my car. I never thought to lock the car since it was in a locked garage. The insurance company was fighting paying anything on the claim as they said it was a theft from the car and the items were not covered. My agent contacted the police and asked at what point was it considered theft – when the items were removed from the car (not covered) or when the robbers set foot outside of the garage (covered). The police said it was once they left the garage. The agent got my claim paid. If the car had been parked on the street, nothing would have been covered except built-ins like the stereo and that would have been under my auto policy. The homeowner’s policy would not have provided any coverage.

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avatar Simon

Sorry to hear this happened but it definitely isn’t a rare thing in NYC. I live in Brooklyn and my father’s van was broken into twice in one week. The crooks hit the same window both times but there is was nothing to steal in the car. Both times, they just broke the window, searched the car and took some loose change.

The stolen stuff isn’t such a big deal but the most frustrating thing is that you have to deal with insurance, go fix the broken parts, and replace everything. Some people’s cars are essential to their work and it just slows everything down. Unnecessary stress is worse than the monetary loss.

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avatar Pete

I recently had my car broken into and had about $700 worth of stuff stolen as well – including a GPS, Ipod, walkie talkies, digital camera and an expensive Twins Jersey. I blogged about it on my blog – talking about how It was an upsetting experience just for the fact that you can’t believe someone would actually just go into your things, and take what they want. I also talked about how they are just things – and they can be replaced.

Out of my situation I was impressed by the kindness of others in the blogosphere as a few days after posting about my experience 2 readers had sent me a digital camera and a new ipod shuffle! Then my coworkers pitched in to buy me a new GPS! Small blessings sometimes come out of situations like this.

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avatar Xair

Flexo, I do agree that stuff is just stuff, but ponder this:

The real person to blame here is the thief for being such a pathetic low life that he/she obviously was. I can’t help but wonder how much worse things will get once we become so tolerant of people that refuse to work and earn an honest living like the majority of society does. Just because we work and pay insurance that makes it okay for such filth to say well he has what I want so I will take from him so I don’t have to work.

I just think the more tolerant we become of this type of behavior the worse off we become as a society.

Xair

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avatar UH2L

Xair,

Nobody is condoning what the thief did. It’s not OK to steal. But thieves have existed for tens of thousands of years and they will always exist. So, we have to do what we can to protect ourselves. In rough economic times, we may see an uptick in theft, but overall, the general percentage of people that steal and the theft rate probably remains fairly consistent.

UH2L

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avatar vilkri

Sorry to hear the bad news. Good thing you did not have to pay for the broken glass. I had an incident in Manhattan once when the broken glass and the inconevience of it all was the biggest problem. Nothing was stolen since I did not leave anything in the car. – I like the “system” in Costa Rica, a very peaceful country without much robbery but plenty of petty theft. When you park your car there, you leave the car unlocked so that thieves can search the car without having to break the window (which is a pain to replace there). This strategy also gives you the discipline to never leave anything of value in the car. I have followed that rule in Costa Rica and nothing was ever stolen. But I cannot tell you how often my car was “broken into”.

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avatar fathersez

Sorry to hear about this.

The loss may not be much financially, but it is the trouble and the bother of getting it all fixed.

Regards

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avatar monica

so you never found out who stole your stuff that really sucks cause the same thing happen to me but i was home my 4runner 2004 was in my drive way and we don’t really use it only on the weekends so one saturday morning my husband went out side to start the car when he came to see that are car had been robbed they stole are airbags and his ipod car charger but good thing we didn’t leave anything valuable in their

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