According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a car is stolen every 33 seconds in the United States.
When his 1967 Austin Healy was stolen in Philadelphia, Bob Russell of Dallas, Texas, never gave up hope that he would one day find it. Forty-two years later, his hopes have become a reality. When browsing eBay, he found his car with the highest bid at $19, 700 at a Los Angeles dealership.
Russell, who still had the original title and keys, called the dealer.
“I hate to sound indelicate,” he told the dealer, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “but you’re selling a stolen car.”
The dealer offered to sell the car back him for $24,000.
Russell went to the Los Angeles police, who could not help him because there was no record of the stolen car in the national database. With the odds stacked against him, he turned to the Philadelphia police.
Lt. Fred McQuiggan, head of the Police Integrated Information Network, discovered that the VIN had been entered incorrectly into the FBI’s files. McQuiggan was able to fix the problem without having to file a new stolen car report.
This enabled Los Angeles police to impound the car.
In June Russell was able to go Los Angeles with his wife and drive the car home.
Russell’s case is a rare and extremely lucky one. According to the NHTSA, only 57 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered. For Russell, recovering his car was a long shot since it had been missing for four decades.
NHTSA recommends several ways to prevent vehicle theft, such as never leaving keys in a car, closing and locking all doors and windows, parking in a well-lit area and removing valuables from plain sight.