The Obscure Loophole That Explains Why Thieves Prefer Old, Junky Cars

Who wants to steal crappy old cars better suited for the junkyard than the road? Car thieves with a fine understanding of New York law, of course. While car thefts have gone way down in New York, thefts of junky old cars has gone up—all because a quirk in the state's laws makes it easier to turn junk into profit.

Sure, newer cars with better security features are harder to steal, but they're also harder to sell on the black market. On the other hand, you don't even need a title to junk old cars in New York. Because of an old law originally passed to deal with abandoned vehicles, cars eight years or older and worth less than $1250 require only two easily obtained DMV forms to be junked. And thieves are catching on, as the police told the New York Times.

"Say I have an old Dodge Caravan; I can scrap that without a title just by presenting a form and a valid ID," said Deputy Inspector Joseph Kenny, the commanding officer of the Police Department's auto crimes division. "It's gotten to the point where it's almost common knowledge. Perps find out the easy ways to make money."

Big, heavy cars with lots of metal are the prime targets. 5000-pound Ford Econoline delivery vans, for example, can net $600 to $700 in scrap. 51 of such vans have already been reported stolen this year, compared to only 19 this time last year. This a perfect example of a law having unintended consequences—and a reminder that even your decrepit old car should be locked up. [New York Times]

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