Houston Ford Think Stolen Then Tracked and Recovered

Easter Sunday between midnight and 6am, thieves stole my just completely restored Ford Think Neighbor from my backyard. That is my primary car for getting around the city of Houston and it gets a ton of attention everywhere it goes. I suspected that it could be stolen so I placed a tracking device in the car and hoped for the best. I only noticed it missing at 11am, so they had a pretty good head start on me but the tracker reported its position 3.5 miles away inside a Cube Smart Self Storage facility as recently as 5 minutes prior. I called a neighbor and we drove there in my 4K dashcam equipped (front and rear) LandCruiser. Let’s just say it would not have been a fair fight if the thieves were present when we arrived. Another LandCruiser owner just happened to be entering the self storage so after checking out his rig, I asked my new LandCruiser buddy if he would let me in the complex and of course he agreed when I explained my stolen car was being hidden inside. We positioned my LandCruiser to block one access route to the unit where my car was and my neighbor stayed in the Cruiser with my .556 to protect my backside if the thieves were present or if they arrived he would signal me by honking the horn. I was able to enter the storage locker and I found my car inside, master switch off, main battery negative disconnected, license plates removed, vin tag and registration removed and with my retractable cord reel disconnected. The storage unit was full of stolen electric scooters and mobility scooters for handicapped people. I quickly put the car back together and called 911. Two HPD units responded and I filed a report. While we were there, the unit’s “owner” arrived but “suddenly needed to leave urgently” when she saw the police units. We left with my stolen car and my LandCruiser’s dashcams filmed the entire sequence in 4K. The following morning I met the facility manager there as well as HPD. It turns out these are organized professional thieves and they had broken in to six more of the storage units at that Cube Smart location. I was able to recover 1 of my license plates from the unit, but in the process I found cordless angle grinders, cordless drills/cobalt bits, cordless sawzalls, high voltage hand tools, and a tool box containing micro drones, microSD cards, and spare batteries. These thieves were using drones as an aerial lookout while breaking in to cars and businesses. They also had a pile of stolen Fedex and UPS packages from a nearby office building. I viewed the facility’s security camera footage during the subsequent investigation. 5 individuals repeatedly came and left the storage unit multiple times during the next 24 hours and all using the same entrance code at the gate. The police have the license plates and the video footage. Hopefully they put some of these people away but I am doubtful. According to the district manager of Cube Smart, this type of activity is “normal” and happens at nearly every self storage facility. So if you use a self storage, be warned that you are likely in the company of thieves and consider placing a tracking device in your vehicles if they do not already have one.

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Nice!!! What tracker are you using? It might almost be worth adding a small power source to the tracker to keep it active if someone unhooks the main battery.

Do you have any idea of what the typical plan was to dispose of the stolen items? (CraigsList, Ebay, Marketplace?)

How the heck did they get it out of your back yard? Then they drove it or towed it 3.5 Mi to the stash house?

I have some hidden apple AirTags in my car.

apple AirTags

I need to check back into these to see what they are all about.
I previously logged these in the key finder class of trackers. Early trackers were RFID or BT chirping fobs aren’t really GPS trackers and only work if you or someone in your network are in range. Not very useful in vehicle tracking applications.

Maybe I’m wrong?

Everything has been getting smaller so I can accept the fact that secret agent tech is making it’s ways into useful consumer sized packages.

Still- anything with a range will most likely need a network (cellular?) for support and therefore need a subscription/fee for support.

you are right, They rely on iPhone or any apple product around.
Let say in this case, unless thief’s had iPhone (or someone with an iPhone walks next to the gate it wont work) however as soon as someone with an apple product is in range it will show you its location.

I hate paying monthly fees so this is a solution better than nothing, considering that there are more chances that are an iphone user around than a tile user

Another thing to mention is that it will alert the iphone next to it that there is a Tag (to prevent people being tracked) so If a thief has iphone it will show him that there is a tracker nearby. He will have to find the tracker, get rid of it and move the car to somewhere else because you will have his location already.

Got lucky they did not find the AirTag. It seems they tried desperately to locate it. Several access panels had been removed and they disconnected everything in the car that they could and they removed the cluster to look in that area.




Knowing what I know about AirTag limitations, and what I just learned about pro car thieves, I will be upping my game. This is the second attempt at stealing a car from my address in Montrose. Last April, they attempted to steal my classic Chevy pickup truck from in front of my home but were denied by their inability to start it. Have to build a better mousetrap to stay ahead of these savages.

Man steals another man’s car is not a man.

There are a number of YouTube videos showing how to disable the AirTag speaker so it won’t chirp. Pretty simple to do. I’m using one on my camping trailer.

From what I understand, the problem that surfaced with airtags is bad guys were dropping them into unsuspected victims belongings and following them home. Apple iOS now looks for unrecognized airtags following a device around for xx time and displays an alert on the victims phone.

This is probably how the thieves knew there was a tag in the car somewhere.

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Maybe i missed it, how did they get it running?

It appears they must have had their own key or they inserted something into the key switch and broke it. Currently the car only will operate in T “Turf” mode. It will not run in R “reverse” or D “Drive” mode since it was recovered. NEVACCESSORIES.COM has already shipped me a new key switch so I should know on Thursday if the car is working normally again. Inside the storage locker unit, I found a pretty substantial set of standard car keys, cylinder keys, remote key fobs for multiple makes, as well as key cutting equipment. The police recovered all of those items but it seems like the thieves were very well equipped using micro drones for aerial lookout, radios, and even boxes of M-60 fireworks (to distract police) if police were dispatched to respond to thefts in progress. Also I found a couple dozen empty 1 pound Coleman propane cylinders in the storage locker. I am unsure what they might be using all those small cylinders for.

So it wasn’t exactly a high speed getaway. That must have been a painful 3.5 miles.

micro drones for aerial lookout,

I find this quite resourceful. It might have even been how they located your car in the back of your yard. Unless they saw you coming home and followed you.

boxes of M-60 fireworks (to distract police) if police were dispatched to respond to thefts in progress.

This seems like a good way to start a gunfight without having a gun.
I’m not sure of the logic in this.

There is a street with many popular bars on it in Houston (Washington Ave.) where the Cube Smart self storage facility is also located. It appears the guy involved in the auto thefts and car break-ins (on the security video) is parking his car a block or two away from the location they want to observe/rob. Then he flys the drone up to observe from overhead and sends in his thieves (4 women) who smash windows and collect items from cars, trunks, and businesses. If he sees anyone from the drone he tells them to get out quickly. If he sees a cop from above with the drone, he throws an M-60 out of his car as he drives away and the distraction redirects anyone close enough to hear it away from his thieves on the ground while they walk away. It’s actually fairly clever. Then everyone dumps their stuff in the storage building lockers and they all get away. 6 units at the storage building full of stolen goods and half the neighborhood riding around on stolen electric scooters and electric bikes now. Dozens of car break-ins and thefts each night and nobody sees anything. But the security cameras at the Cube Smart recorded all of them and their vehicles coming and going all day and night from the Cube Smart. If I was a cop in the burglary or auto theft unit, I would set up shop on every self storage facility in Houston and just watch who is coming and going more than once a day.

The police think I was followed home in my Ford Think. The car is partially visible from the street behind my home in the private off street parking because I live on a corner. There is also 24 hour private police security on the block where I live due to the proximity of a famous museum next door so my neighborhood is not usually an attractive target with the police usually circling around the museum. I know all of the museum police (off duty HPD). They were not happy to hear that the car was stolen from a property they monitor.

Sounds to be a professional group as you said!!

I have full coverage on my cart, if it was stolen how do i tell what insurance will pay me.

I sense this thread has potential to turn into a security idea topic.

Thought 1-
If you always plug your car in when you come home, Tap into the 120v side of the charger and put in a relay. In energized state the NC contacts would be open. Hook up the horn to these contacts. If anyone unplugs your cart without flipping your secret switch the horn would sound off!

Cons-

  • If your power goes out your car would think it was being stolen. Your neighbors would get pissed.
  • This does nothing to protect your cart when running errands.

I also have had full coverage paying State Farm $24/month since I bought my car in 2016. I have a $500 deductible so unless the cost to repair my car is more than $1k, I’m not likely gonna file a claim. I have receipts for my car from the start. I bought the car for $6k. I value the car at $9k. I just did the ball joints, tie rod ends, coil over shocks, interior, the cluster, wheels, tires, brakes, bearings, batteries 6 X Deka Group 31 gel cells, all lighting, the multifunction switch, cord reel charging cord, rev2 motor, rev2 controller, and the now famous air tag. Probably would have been better to let the thieves have it but I just completed a ton of work and it’s really awesome. Not easy to get another one like mine.

Is a venomous snake living in the glove box off the table?

@jrjava - I was thinking a couple of dobies named Zeus and Apollo would be an alternate, but your idea would work too.

You idea would need a zip tie mod on his pointy end to a hole in the box so it would be resettable.

Converting the SDS to a key switch would make it a little harder to steal. However, a pro will get their hands on it no matter how much you protect it. But at least the amateurs will have a harder time.
I also carry full coverage. It’s the best way to protect our investment.

@AssyRequired
Lol.
How about a trunk monkey?

Iirc, Rodney had an e2 stolen out of his driveway, they disconnected a power lead, put hand brake down, rolled it out of his driveway onto a trailer and were gone in seconds.

Kind of hard to really secure vehicles that don’t weigh anything and don’t have doors