Longtime Scarsdale resident Steve Morrison was in disbelief early Sunday morning, April 25, upon finding his 2002 Mercedes CLK-55, a car he bought nearly 20 years ago, was missing from his driveway.
Morrison, like many Scarsdale car owners, leaves his car unlocked when parked, especially when parked in front of his house or in his driveway. Last Tuesday, April 20, the car alarm went off at 1:45 a.m., but Morrison told the Inquirer he did not believe that his car was the target of an attempted break-in; he simply went outside, reset the alarm and went inside to go back to sleep.
The following day, April 21, Morrison’s car alarm sounded around 1:45 a.m., exactly 24 hours after the first such incident. Since the car alarm went off at the same time two days in a row, Morrison concluded that his car would likely ring at the same time for the next few days until he could take his car into the shop for inspection.
“It is an old car,” he said.
Sunday morning, at 1:45 a.m., the same time at which the car alarm was blaring a few days earlier, Morrison’s car was looted from his driveway by perpetrators whose identities remain unknown.
Morrison said his car was unlocked when stolen, and he had left the key fob in the car, an oversight which he labels “a big mistake.” He is now one of numerous residents who have experienced the growing epidemic of car theft during the pandemic.
In 2020, there were 27 stolen vehicles recorded in the Scarsdale Police Department reports, all of which, like Morrison’s, were unlocked with the keys inside. Although the number of car thefts in Scarsdale in 2020 was a significant increase — about 2,000% — from the number in recent years, the recent spike in stolen vehicles was a “countywide problem,” according to Capt. Ed Murphy of the Scarsdale Police Department.
Luckily, Morrison subscribes to the Allstate Insurance Drivewise program, an initiative rewarding safe drivers. After his car was stolen, Morrison used the tool to monitor his car. Although location services were unavailable, he used Drivewise to see how far the criminals drove his Mercedes. The thieves initially navigated Morrison’s car 20 miles, according to Drivewise. The 20-mile drive, Morrison later learned, was from his driveway to the Bronx. Following the initial drive, the car was driven an additional 30 miles around the suspected criminals’ neighborhood, adding to the 50,000 miles already on the car from Morrison’s usage.
Morrison speculates the rise in overall crime is due to increased “boredom” from the pandemic. “I hate to say it,” he said, “but people feel that they can get away with a lot of stuff now.”
Capt. Murphy, on the other hand, said he thought the growth in car thefts was “maybe because of COVID” but not “a direct cause.”
Morrison’s car was eventually recovered by the New York Police Department (NYPD) on 175th Street near Crotona Park in the Bronx.
“The NYPD has a device on the squad cars that if they find a car on the street that has been registered as stolen, the license plate clicks into the database,” Morrison explained.
He said he is currently in the process of retrieving his Mercedes, which, at the moment, is located near the intersection of 170th Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx after it was towed from Crotona Park.
Morrison said police told him his car was found in good condition, and luckily, there were not any irreplaceable items that could have been taken from the car, such as family photographs, keys, jewelry or notes.
Because of this unfortunate and stressful experience, Morrison is determined to change his habits — and his car keys, since the perpetrators still have a copy. He said he plans to lock his car and his back door regularly, practices triggered by his realization that he “does not feel as safe as he used to feel.”
Reflecting on his car being stolen, Morrison said he feels “slightly violated that someone would walk up to [his] driveway to take [his] car,” though he praised the Scarsdale Police Department for his car’s speedy recovery.
Asked if he, as a victim of car theft, had advice for his neighbors, Morrison said they should be aware of the rise in crime and “not take the seeming safety of Scarsdale for granted.” Morrison also noted the rare outcome that a stolen car was not only found but recovered quickly and in good condition, as in his case. He said he is incredibly happy that, soon, he will have his car back in his possession.