Photo by Shane Harms
Here we have Harms' vehicle, which was stolen two weeks ago. Harms was relieved to find his vehicle, but he declined a comment for the article. Subarus and Hondas are especially prone to theft because of their popularity for resale and their easily fooled locks.

Taken: Seattle car theft guide

What do you do when you walk out from your job, your home or a World Cup soccer game and find your car gone? This was the dilemma this Ballard News-Tribune reporter faced less than two weeks ago and has prepared a step by step guide to save readers time, money and basic sanity.

After seeing a vacant space where a car once was, panic may be the first notion that occurs to a person, but there’s a better solution.

Step one: If you are in city limits and your car is stolen, call Lincoln Towing and check to see if your car was towed. LT is contracted with the city and is the company parking enforcement calls when a car has been parked illegally and needs to be moved. Moreover, they are the company Seattle Police Department calls when they have found a stolen vehicle. Call and give them your license plate number and make of the car, and the dispatcher will be able to look it up.

Step two: If LT did not tow the car, and unless you have a terrible friend with a key to your vehicle, then it’s safe to assume the car has been stolen. Call SPD and file a police report. An officer will be dispatched and will come to your location. They will ask when/if they find the vehicle, can search it. They will also ask if it should be towed or left for pick up. If the vehicle is found and is in an illegal parking spot or is unsecured, meaning broken windows, it is automatically towed.

Step three: In the meantime, it’s important to move on with your life. Buying a new car right away is a little rash because according to SPD, 86 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered within a few weeks to a month. Wait it out. Find an alternative way to get around. The challenges presented when finding new modes of transpiration are more than rewarding, and a new perspective on how other people move around the city is revealed. Walking, biking and riding the bus are great options. Carpooling is something to consider for commuters.

Step four: If SPD calls then they have found the missing car. They will notify the owner where the car has been towed (unless citizens specified not to tow it in the police report). If found in city limits it will be at one of the Lincoln Towing lots around Seattle. If the car was found outside of city limits there are other tow companies that are partnered with other cities and the dispatcher will be able to provide that information.

Luckily, this reporter got a call from SPD saying that his car had been found within two weeks. It was found on private property, and the owner of the lot had it towed. This is the worst-case scenario for a victim of car theft because private lot tows are more expensive than public right-of-way tows.

So what is the cost to get your car out of the impound lot?

When stolen cars are found in the public right-of-way they are considered “Police-authorized impounds.” According to the city website the typical cost for retrieving a towed car is $130 to $200, including all services and fees. After 12 hours, there is a lot storage fee of $12.50 for each additional 12-hour storage period. Moreover, the site says that citizens also pay a $15 City of Seattle impound fee, which has no tax and pays for administering and enforcing Seattle towing rules.

However, there are different, more expensive rates determined by tow companies for cars towed from private property, which was the case this reporter found himself in. The car was dumped in a private parking lot in North Seattle. Lincoln Towing charged around $320 to relinquish the car. To make sure tow companies don’t gouge citizens, the city has caps on tow fees. The caps are $183 for the first hour of towing, $130.60 for the subsequent hours of towing, $15.50 for storage fees (per 12 hour increment), and $100 for an after hour release.

Remember reader, the best way to prevent car theft is be smart. Don’t leave things visible in your car and park in well-lit areas at night. A club or a custom security system is great for older vehicles, especially for older Subarus and Hondas. These cars are especially prone to theft because they can be accessed and engaged by a shaved key. Moreover, the clean up after the devastation can be dangerous. Wear gloves and watch for used needles and other unsterile material (lovely). Happy motoring. God’s speed.