A rock for a ride: vehicle thieves trading cars for crack

crack cocaine

During a not-so-happy hour at a Beaumont bar, a local man’s truck was stolen from the parking lot while he was inside.

Police say, as is the case with many car thefts and other varying crime in the city, it could be drug-related since car thieves and other drug users are prone to trading vehicles for drugs, a practice so common it has become known in some circles as “a rock for a ride.”

A local man stopped for drinks at the Portus Lounge, 6632 Phelan Blvd. in Beaumont, at about midnight Sept. 24, reports Officer Haley Morrow, only to discover as he was leaving that his pickup truck was nowhere to be found. He called the Beaumont Police Department (BPD).

An officer responded to the scene at about 2 a.m. The victim told the officer he had parked his Tundra pickup truck in front of the business when he arrived. Inside the truck, the man had his Ruger 9mm and a spare key, among other items. The officer entered the vehicle as stolen into the TCIC/NCIC systems, the state and national networks that provide shared data regarding the stolen status of property and the wanted, missing, sex offender, or protective order status of persons to law enforcement in various jurisdictions.

On Monday morning, said Officer Morrow, the case was assigned to a detective with the Auto Theft Task Force. Now, she explained, the detective is doing “detective work,” meaning he will request and view any surveillance footage of the parking lot or adjoining businesses that is available, interview witnesses and generally investigate the incident. And, while he is looking for the thief, officers all over the state and country can identify and recover the stolen vehicle by using the TCIC/NCIC system tool.

Morrow said that if an officer pulls over the vehicle while it is being operated, whoever is driving the car would be charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (UUMV), a state jail felony, ,the penalty for which is 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000. People who may be riding in the stolen vehicle are generally not charged with the vehicle theft, but they could face other charges if illegal or stolen items are discovered in the vehicle and could also be arrested if they have warrants.

Morrow indicated that stolen vehicles that are recovered are sometimes left abandoned on the side of the road, often in a different county or even state than the one from where they were originally taken. But, that doesn’t mean the car thief is off the hook. In that case, the Auto Theft Task Force detective would still be searching for a suspect. And, if the detective working the case is able to determine who stole the car based on the investigation, that suspect would be charged with UUMV, the same state jail felony as the person caught driving a stolen car.

Sadly, not all vehicles are recovered. Some are taken out of the area and sold. In those cases, criminals often attempt to disguise the vehicles, using license plates from other vehicles to throw off police or utilizing other techniques to change the vehicle appearance.

“I urge people to use common sense when purchasing a vehicle,” Morrow suggested.

She said, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

For example, “If somebody is selling a $50,000 vehicle for $100, you know something’s not right. I recommend against buying a vehicle if the price seems to low.”

Morrow advises car shoppers to take steps to protect their investment, like getting a vehicle history report on used cars or going through a reputable dealer.

Often, revealed Morrow, stolen cars are traded for drugs, leading to the colloquialism “a rock for a ride.”

Morrow explained that the expression is referring to “a crack rock,” and added that the seller could actually be looking to trade for narcotics other than crack cocaine.

“It happens all the time,” she related.

To report a stolen vehicle, contact local law enforcement. Inside Beaumont, call the police department at (409) 832-1234.

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