Monday, March 11, 2013

Calling In Suspicious Car Is Easy

Saturday morning I noticed a car parked in front of the empty rental house next door. It didn't belong to any of our neighbors, and that spot had been used last year to drop off stolen cars, so I took a look. The driverside window was partly open and the radio was gone, which looked suspicious. There was a small chance that this was just a visitor to one of the other neighbors who had parked in a funny spot, so I did nothing.
That evening, the car was still there, so I wrote down the license plate to call it in. I didn't remember the Seattle Police Department's non-emergency line, but google gave me this: which said:
"If you suspect an abandoned vehicle may be stolen, you can check the plates against our stolen car Twitter account at - you do not need an account to view this information."
I went to "" and imagine my surprise to see right at the top, the very same license plate number I held in my hand!
I didn't think this was really an emergency, but the directions were to call 911 so what the heck. The call didn't taken very long; they took down my information and asked a few questions such as what was the color of the car (...leading me to ponder: was it really black? or just deep midnight blue? that was probably more than the 911 operator wanted to know so I just said "very dark"...). I assume the questions were in part to assure that I wasn't a pranker taking advantage of the twitter feed, but actually had seen something worth checking up on. The operator said they'd send someone out to check on it, and instructed us not to approach anyone who approached the car.
After a while, a police cruiser appeared and the officer spent some time, presumably looking up the license plate. I left him alone, figuring that he'd contact us if he wanted any information, but the situation looked pretty straightforward. It was late evening and I didn't expect a tow right away. Sunday afternoon I looked out the window and the car was gone.
The moral of the story is that checking on a suspicious car is now pretty easy; the twitter feed could even be accessed from my "handbrain" (smartphone). Calling it in was no trouble at all, and hopefully someone got their car back a little bit sooner. I know that if *my* car was stolen, I would want someone to call it in!

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