A couple of years ago, Dallas police officers parked one of their bait cars outside an apartment complex in West Oak Cliff, complete with a set of keys and unlocked doors. But the man who took the car, 31-year-old Louis Torres, didn't bother with the keys; he used a tow truck, which the cops traced to a business on Davis Street, where Torres was arrested for auto theft.
Two days later, DPD dropped the charges and apologized profusely after realizing that Torres is a driver for a licensed tow truck company contracted by the complex, and that the bait car had been illegally parked on apartment property.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
That said, car-theft-by-tow-truck is real, and it's on the rise in Dallas. A police spokeswoman said she didn't have any hard numbers on the trend and couldn't say whether it's the work of rogue towing companies, which is a thing, or freelancers with tow trucks, but she said there has been a significant increase.
Police are being vigilant. Yesterday afternoon, they pulled over Jose Flores-Ramirez as he traveled down Interstate 35 into DeSoto, partly because the license plate on his trailer was obscured, but mainly because they suspected the 1997 Mercury Sable on top was stolen.
Flores-Ramirez told them that he'd just bought the car and was headed to a salvage yard in Waxahachie to sell it for scrap and, despite his lack of the car's title, police had no evidence to contradict him. So they arrested him instead on the relatively minor charge of operating as a salvage dealer without a license, which nevertheless got him locked up in Lew Sterrett for the foreseeable future because he's in the country illegally.
Maybe Flores-Ramirez's arrest means there is one fewer tow-truck-car-thief on the streets. Or maybe he was just some guy trying to make a living by scrapping cars. In any case, it appears that there are still plenty of tow-truck-driving car thieves out there. Not as many old-school, smash-and-hotwire kind, perhaps, but more than enough.