Confessions of a Car Hopper

“Car Hopping”. It sounds like some innocent fun, doesn’t it? Although really awesome sounding, it’s probably a hazardous practice, leaping from car to car like that, you could do a face-plant or worse! Thankfully, the kind of car hopping I was doing didn’t involve the literal hopping from car to car as much as figurative hopping. Unfortunately, the kind of car hopping I did was just as dangerous, illegal and frowned upon by… generally everyone. This is the act of going through neighborhoods, attempting to find open car doors and then stealing anything of value from said cars. It’s more of a petty crime of opportunity rather than your typical organized criminal money-making schemes, but it still had its perks.

  1. It’s Ridiculously Easy to Get Away With

When I went out on my “missions” at night, I made damn sure I was unidentifiable. I dressed the part with the gloves, face coverings and all. Even though I knew I wasn’t the Pink Panther or anything, I still wanted to play it smart. Small towns smack dab in the middle of Suburbia were my domain of comfort and I picked out places where there were least likely to be police, easy enough from just a little keen observation. Google earth was my friend when pinpointing the areas with the biggest houses and presumably the least amount of prying eyes. I also didn’t commence any criminal activity until the hour of 1am. I’m not completely sure why, but I figured more people would be sleeping in their beds with visions of sugar plums in their heads or some shit at that hour as opposed to 12am. My rule for frequency was bi-weekly and I never hit the same location twice, unless I had good intel and reconnaissance that told me the po po were sniffing asses elsewhere.

I had gone on these outings before accompanied by a couple friends, but I soon realized that few were up to my standards of “blending in”. Suspicious activity was far more likely to be reported if a group of little wankers were scurrying about in the middle of the night with seemingly no good purpose. It dawned on me pretty quickly that if I worked alone, I’d get all the profits and at the same time have no witnesses to my wrongdoings. It was a win-win in my books. Speaking of wins…

  1. It can Lead to Bigger and Better Scores

Common items I’d get pretty often were MP3 players, cell phones, GPS units and an endless list of chords and nick-knacks, usually accompanying described electronics. Eventually, I was like a walking Pawn Shop. Who’s prices were better than this bad boy’s? NOBODY!!! At first I didn’t really think of taking the cup holder change with a silly childish attitude of “Eh, it’s just peanuts” but when I did start taking some, I noticed it was easy to collect a mound of coins worth anywhere from $10 to a couple hundred in one night! My biggest change score had to have been close to $500, not joking, that’s two zeros after the five (Insert Scrooge McDuck reference here)! However, this was in a larger, richer suburban area which was more risky business…

I wouldn’t always take just any old thing from a car, especially if it didn’t have very good cash value. It allowed me to “harvest” somewhere I’d been before without raising any alarms of theft. At some point I even overlooked things of value that could be perceived as immediately sketchy if one was trying to sell it, like the GPS units without proof of purchase or an iPad with an iCloud lock. Sometimes the items I’d take were for more practical means like flashlights, bags, gloves, sun glasses, coats and other wears. These were worn and or used in forthcoming crimes to deter the touchy arms of the law from feeling me out as the assailant of previous crimes. All of these things were expected to be found eventually, but then there were even juicier snatchings…

On several occasions I was able to secure thousands of dollars in straight-up cash from cars! Other times I found a set of keys so I could pretend to be Vin Diesel from the Fast and Furious franchise in some poor bugger’s car while committing crimes elsewhere. I liked to keep to the low-level stuff mainly because of confidence issues, but if the time felt right, I’d escalate to things like sneaking into a garages, stealing cars and lying in wait in the darkness to pounce on my pray of valuable goods. I never really “broke in” anywhere per say, I always just simply walked in all quiet-like, grabbed what I came for, then tip-toed out like a cartoon villain. It felt like really good luck every time the big scores happened, but I started to think it was some sort of “destiny” once it got to my head about how “good” I was. I seemed to know where to find this stuff as if other forces we don’t understand were at play, if that makes any sense. In hindsight, it was just because I knew where to go and what to do. You didn’t always have control over certain variables though, which became apparent a number of times…

  1. The Cops are the Least of Your Worries

So you’re out prowling around for some good stuff when you come across a Lexus to be victimized. You see through its window a sack of cash with a dollar sign on it (for exemplary purposes). Your hand clutches the door handle while shaking. This is it! This is the big one! The Golden Nugget! The Creme de La Creme! Then, as soon as you hear that door click open… BEEP BEEP BEEP! WEEUR WEEUR! You’ve set off the alarm! Your choices are to run and avoid a possible angry car owner with a shooter or to take the cash anyways before running, allowing the angry car owner time to fetch his shooter! You can see where I’m going with this…

In my 8 years of being an active car hopper, never once was I directly caught by the police. I was, however, caught a multitude of times by some angry motherfuckers trying to defend their vehicles. Being chased in a car and almost run over, being punched out by a skin head and having a shotgun pointed at me were just a couple run-ins I had with mad property owners attempting to drive me away from their valuables. I don’t blame them whatsoever for this, but the alarming part is the most violent encounters I had didn’t involve a call to the police at all. It was swift vigilante justice without the need or use of superhero costumes (it would’ve been that much more cool to be beat down by Batman though). That meant that the amount of force they wanted to use on me was entirely up to them. I was very fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of these crazy encounters without fighting back at all, probably why I became so ballsy and organized with these practices before I was practically forced to stop.

  1. When You are Arrested, They Don’t Like you Very Much

Like I said, I had never been directly caught for car hopping by the cops. Not to downplay their work and services to the people, but most of the time I could simply hide from them and hop fences to put distance between us once the coast was clear. It was like Splinter Cell but eluding the targets instead of sneaking towards them. I did get busted though, but never red handed. Sometimes you’d bring too much heat upon yourself and get thrown into the fire in the form of a sting operation. See, I never really saw what I was doing as “really wrong”. Of course, I knew full well what I was doing wasn’t okay and definitely had an impact on its victims. What I mean here is ex-criminals like me have some sort of variation in levels about “how illegal” something is. In my mind, car hopping was about a 3 out of 10 compared to how severe some crimes were like say stealing somebody’ s organs in a sneaky manner after you’ve drugged them with a mickey finn (do people still use those or are roofies the standard now?). This lead me to thinking that I could get away with it over and over by just sitting on the most valuable stolen items until the pressure from the fuzz died down.

Despite all my modes of caution, twice I made the stupid move of walking into a trap. The Admiral Ackbar in my head was screaming that line over and over before both these apprehensions, but I was too greedy to listen… The first time I was nabbed because I was accompanying a friend who was attempting to sell a couple items out of many that were stolen the night before. This was down-right retarded to me, but I didn’t expect to be jumped by about seven police officers once he made the cash agreement with the undercover buyer. I guess it could’ve been referred to as guilty by association. The second time was years after this when I had a brewing drug problem. My judgment was clouded by the need for sweet sweet mother morphine and I knew something was amiss, but somehow my junkie mind lead me to the buy location anyways. To be completely honest, the rookie who played the buyer was pretty bad at acting casual, but he got me just the same… Well, his ten buddies did. Very professional take down gentlemen!

Once I got to the station after both of these arrests, I noticed that the detectives didn’t have me on the initial crimes, just for the possession of property taken in said incidents. It not only caused them to treat me worse, but it also caused them to try and make my day harder than it already was. They snooped through my personal life on my phone and social media accounts, attempted to turn my friends against each other and spread the word about how much of a piece of shit I was in their police computers just because they couldn’t lay all the charges on me that they wanted. The second time they even made a news article featuring yours truly even though the things I was peddling weren’t really expensive. I thought to myself “is this even news?”, but I guess I got what was coming to me.

  1. You Can Stop, But…

You will most likely always be infected with a serious case of kleptomania. Like herpes, you have “flare-ups” every now and again where you’ll want to steal something shiny, pantyhose or a pack of gum or whatever from a car you’re passing by for example. Like pussy, scabby, lesions, they fester in the depths of your mind, popping out at the most inappropriate times. It’s in you just pounding and pounding. Sometimes you’ll want to say “Yes!Yes!” to these urges, other times you’ll be begging them to stop..! Okay, enough with the gross and sexual analogies (hehe ANALogies), I think I’ve more than drove the point home. Now, I’m not trying to say this is some incurable condition that you cannot help yourself from either, I’m just saying it’s a thrilling and enticing part of your past that will always be with you. Dodging the bullet on many criminal charges has lead me down a path of going to school and amounting to something better than that. The level of stress and guilt on a daily basis isn’t worth it to me. Even though I considered myself a professional car hopper with easily 30k in money and or merchandise taken (maybe more), it’s not exactly something impressive you can put on a resume. Not only this, but I hope I can “atone” for what I have done in the future. Now to go “bar hopping” with my college mates like “normal people” supposedly do in this society.

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