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Automobile Thieves

The introduction of automobiles was soon followed by the appearance of automobile thieves. The Motorist (Omaha) in its August 1920 issue denounced automobile-related crime, especially the "strong tendency now to steal parts or accessories, rather than the whole car. It may be a wheel, a set of tires, curtains, a carburetor, a magneto, or what not. It may be only a few tools.

"A recent letter to THE MOTORIST from a Nebraska truck dealer, is an instance of this. The dealer, Fred E. Johnson, Nebraska City, wrote in part: 'While taking a truck to Hamburg, Ia., it got stuck in the mud up to the hubs. As we did not have any chains, we had to leave it all night. When we went to drive it on the next day, the Dixie magneto, and the whistle had been stolen.' Johnson is considerably aroused and is offering a reward for any clue that will lead to the arrest of the thief.

"This tendency has been in evidence in cities for some time. An insurance man from a middle-western municipality remarked the other day: 'We do not lose much now on stolen cars, but we certainly have been hit hard on stolen accessories recently. Of course they have been taking spare tires and wheels for some time. Then they began to jack up the cars and take the tires off the wheels.

"The other night a man left his car parked in front of a friend's house for a time. He came out, stepped on the starter and threw her into gear. Bang, the axle crashed to the ground. Those accessory thieves had taken his jack from the car, jacked it up, removed one of the wheels and taken it away, leaving the car jacked up so that the owner did not notice anything was wrong until he started it.

"Let a car be injured in a wreck and if it is not guarded everything of any value that can be removed without a full fledged machine shop, quietly fades away in the night. Curtains volplane away out of reach. There is one recent record of a Ford owner who found that the whole top of his car had disappeared. The rear curtain had been cut with a knife, and the top lifted right off." The Motorist called for "a still more vigorous policy against automobile thieves, no matter whether they are trying to remove the car bodily, or vivisect it."

(September 2003)


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