When police spot a stolen car

I was stopped at a red light in the middle of the night when the flash of headlights briefly illuminated the interior of my police SUV.

Then again, they flashed twice more in quick succession like the warning beacon of a lighthouse. At the same time, the squeal of tires drew my attention to the passenger side window. There, in the parking lot beside me, was a small red Honda Civic. The Honda’s headlights flashed as the car spun in tight little circles, tires screaming down rubber in a series of doughnuts. Using the theory that cops love doughnuts, if the driver of the Honda wanted my attention he definitely had it.

A quick check of the licence plate revealed the car was stolen. So when the Honda left the parking lot a few seconds later, I was behind it. As I waited for backup units to arrive, the suspect driver decided to try to stack the cards in his favour for his flight from police by cutting off a city bus and making a sharp turn down a side street. I had to wait for the bus to finish trundling through the intersection before executing a similar manoeuvre. By the time I had completed the turn, the Honda was a flash of brake lights two blocks in the distance. It quickly became apparent there was no way I was going to catch up with him, and when I took my eyes off the car for a moment, it disappeared altogether.

I continued in the direction the car had been travelling but it wasn’t brake lights I spotted again, it was smoke. And skid marks. And a demolished street sign. Following a trail of destruction I found the Honda resting on its roof in someone’s yard.

All of the windows had been blown out and thin tendrils of smoke rose from the still revving engine. Jumping out of my truck, I ran to the car, thinking the driver would be injured and suspended upside down by his seatbelt. Imagine my surprise when I found an empty passenger compartment. My only thought as I ran back to my truck to get PSD Hondo was ‘You have got to be kidding me . . . ‘

My dog acquired a track away from the car and for the next half an hour; we tracked the car thief through yards, over fences and across a golf course. It was not until the track ended in a parking lot that we had to admit defeat. It became clear the suspect had made good his escape in another vehicle.

This story doesn’t end with “the suspect in custody.” No one was hurt, and with the exception of one street sign, a section of lawn, one sapling and a five-year-old Honda, nothing was damaged. It does end with an example of the driving habits of car thieves — these guys think they have race car driver skills when they most definitely have not. Car thieves do not care about the public they put at risk and have no regard for the traffic laws meant to keep people safe. Car thieves drive recklessly even when there are no police in the area.

So please, lock your cars, use an immobilizing device, and do your part to combat auto theft.

Vancouver police constable Sandra Glendinning blogs at behindtheblueline.ca. Her opinions aren’t necessarily those of the city’s police department or board.

Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun