May 1967 QST
articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list
of the QST articles I have already posted. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
the car is parked in a dark remote spot it is better to do the job
where the car is. This is because auto burglary is a lesser crime
than stealing the whole damn car." That remark was made by a 'former'
thief who ostensibly gave up a life of crime after spending nearly
two decades in the slammer for various infractions of the law. One
of his specialties was breaking into cars to steal radios - AM,
FM, CB, Ham, or whatever was available. Mr. X volunteered his
insight for the benefit of QST readers who might want to take proactive
steps to help minimize the chance of being a victim.
Your Mobile Rig
By Mike Cresthall
Author's note: This article is the result
of an interview with an EX car thief. This person, anonymous for
obvious reasons, consented to grant me this interview for Marcogram
providing his identity be withheld. For this interview, I will call
him Mr. X.
Marcogram: Mr. X, before we start, perhaps you
would like to give us a bit of an insight in to your background.
X: I am 42 years of age, and I spent 17 years in jail for crimes
ranging from safecracking to auto-burglary. My last prison term
ended in September, 1966, having spent 7 years of a ten-year term
for breaking and entering, and for forgery.
type of vehicle would you consider the easiest to enter, and what
would you look for?
Mr. X: I preferred unlocked vehicles,
but in general, all cars are simple to enter, locked or not. The
easiest from my point are rag tops (convertibles) and the two-door
hardtops. However, most car-men (Note: car-men are thieves who specialize
in theft from automobiles.) will not bother with a securely locked
car because it is risky to slit a rag top or use a "snake" to open
a locked car. (A snake is a hooked wire used to catch the door lock
and open a locked door.) The hardest are Volvos and Volkswagens.
Marcogram: How about lock-picks and skeleton keys?
X: Good question. I never liked lock picks for automobile work,
as the locks are not suitable for picking. Auto locks differ from
standard locks in that the home type work on the pin and tumbler
principle: automobile locks are wafer types, and they are difficult
to pick due to their construction. As for skeleton keys, some like
'em, but I don't for the reason that you have to carry 120 of the
devils around. I prefer hooking the latch with a snake wire, or
in some cases, making a key impression. (Note: I was given a demonstration
on my own mobile of this art of "impressioning". It truly must be
seen to be appreciated. Simply by placing a blank in the lock and
turning the key blank he knew where to file the blank. It took him
exactly 3 1/2 minutes to open my door.)
Marcogram: What sort
of things do you look for in a parked car?
Mr. X: We look
for cameras, portable radios, furs, salesmen's cases, jewelry, and
Marcogram: What use would a salesman's case have?
Mr. X: We can sell it to his competitor for a good price.
Marcogram: How about ham radios? Have you ever stolen one, and
if you did, how did you go about disposing of it?
I don't know whether I should tell you or not: but I have stolen
a few ham radios in the past. They are easy enough to get out, but
they are difficult to fence. (Note: a fence is a person who knowingly
buys stolen goods.) I got one a while back and sold it for $100.00.
Afterwards I found out the darn thing was worth at least $1,000.
I didn't bother with 'em after that.
Marcogram: Where do
you strip a car?
Mr. X: If the car is parked in a dark remote
spot it is better to do the job where the car is. This is because
auto burglary is a lesser crime than stealing the whole damn car.
Marcogram: How would you remove a ham rig, and approximately
how long would it take?
Mr. X: It's pretty hard to say because
each time is different. I remember one time I beat (stole) one of
those ham radios. I spotted this VE2 license tag and he hadn't locked
his car. It was parked on a dark street and no one was around. It
took me 10 minutes to strip his car, including aerial and wires.
You know the screws holding the wires on the radio? Well, I just
Marcogram: How much would you get for a rig worth,
Mr. X: About 5 years. Seriously, I figure
about 1/3 the current market value. The fences know their values
on anything and everything. One guy stole some lithographing blotters
and the fence knew exactly what they were worth. On the other hand,
if I steal "on order," I can get a lot more - say 1/2 the current
value. It is very hard to say on these things.
As you know, Mr. X, this interview is for a Ham Club bulletin; and
I'm sure by now, many readers are thoroughly alarmed. What precautions
can you advise?
X: Lots of insurance.
Marcogram: Any others?
Yes. Don't park on a dark side street, especially in a strange neighborhood.
Roll all windows up firmly a far as they will go, and lock all doors.
It might be good to add that if you have a gasoline credit card,
make sure it is in your wallet, not in the glove compartment. These
cards are worth $100 on the market, and it is the first thing I
look for. Most thefts from cars occur after dark and on dimly lit
streets. If you are to be gone for a long while, it is worth your
while to remove the radio and lock it in the trunk of your car.
Incidentally, if you can install one of those auto burglar alarms,
do so. I'm sure you hams can figure them out and this is an added
safety. There is one out which has a siren - and, brother, what
a noise it makes! No car-man would stick around long after that
baby goes off!
Marcogram: Are these sirens immune to the
impressioning you use?
Mr. X: No. However, less than 5 percent
of the active car-men use impressioning. They rely on the snake
and a knife. There are some alarms that have a hidden switch. This
is the best policy; but if a car-man sees a person activating a
hidden switch, that's it.
Marcogram: "Well, Mr. X, I'm sure
you have enlightened many of the readers, and on their behalf I
would like to thank you for a very interesting, interview.
Posted October 24,