GPS, video surveillance not enough to catch car thief

A local car dealership owner is fed up over car thefts that keep happening at his lot.

He says someone has stolen nine cars over the past four years, with the most recent incident being caught on camera.

Anoka County is investigating this latest case at American Auto Sales, but while it seems like an easy one to solve, it could be about a year before the case is even presented to the county attorney for prosecution if it even happens at all.

Billy Blaul got his stolen Chevy Suburban back, but it’s in no way ready to sell anymore.

“Just started yanking wires out of the computer system hoping that it wouldn’t be tracked,” he said of the damage inflicted by the perpetrator.

It was heavily damaged after it was stolen in the cover of night. Thankfully, his business has good surveillance cameras that still could see it all.

About 1:15 a.m., a tow truck comes in, hooks up the Chevy and tries to get it on the tow truck, but struggles.

Eventually, the tow truck operator just takes their chances and drives it away dangling dangerously off the bed of the truck.

“The vehicle was hanging off the tow truck and they couldn’t make it all the way back home like that,” Blaul said. “It looks like they pushed it into something.”

Blaul told police exactly where his stolen vehicle ended up, because he has a GPS tracker in all of his vehicles.

You’d think with that great surveillance video and GPS that can pinpoint the exact location of that stolen vehicle that would be enough to make a case and an arrest, but according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, it’s not.

When police arrived, there was nobody actually inside the tow truck. The man police did make contact with had a different story.

“Police asked him if he was involved in any way, shape or form,” Blaul recalled. “He said he didn’t do anything stealing a vehicle. He just picked it up for a friend.”

Investigators say it’s not clear if that man knew what he was involved in. Detectives have to collect evidence like DNA and fingerprints to make an airtight case.

The bottom line is, even the best security isn’t enough. In fact, of the nine cars Blaul had stolen, there’s been only one arrest.

“I was expecting a phone call telling me they had finally got one in custody for me and maybe we could end the madness,” he said.

Property crimes are low profit and evidence processing will take at least eight months.

Blaul isn’t angry. He supports the police, but says he’s frustrated.

Even so, he tried to see the upside of things Tuesday.

“I take it as a complement, but mine are the only ones that get stolen in my area, so I’m guessing I got the nicest ones,” he said.

Blaul says between damage, impound fees and other costs, he has to absorb over $60,000, but since he has started using the trackers, he at least now gets his vehicles back.