Why Do Jerks Leave the Glove Box Open After Rifling Through an Unlocked Vehicle?

Whatever you may think about the manners of today’s car plunderers, you can’t fault their work ethic.

Why do jerks leave the glove box open after rifling through an unlocked vehicle? I get that they’re looking for money or a gun or whatever, but if they don’t find it, they could close the box and the owner would never even know. —Marcali H.

Yes, what is the world coming to when petty criminals can’t even be relied upon to tidy up after ripping you off? What’s next, white-collar offenses after Labor Day? Ending ransom notes with a preposition? It’s like they don’t even care.

Still, whatever you may think about the manners of today’s car plunderers, you can’t fault their work ethic. In the first 11 months of 2021, Portlanders reported 7,744 thefts from vehicles to the police.

Since two-thirds of property crimes go unreported, the real total may be as high as 23,000 (and that’s not even counting those canny thieves who evaded detection by not taking anything and carefully closing the glove box). As annoying as it may be to have your car broken into, Marcali, your misery has plenty of company.

Then again, maybe you should be glad they didn’t take the whole car. As WW’s Sophie Peel reported last month (“1,140 Cars Were Stolen in November Across Portland. Mine Was One of Them,” Dec. 15, 2021), Portland car thefts were on a record-setting pace last year, with just over 8,000 reported by Dec. 1. (For comparison, we had fewer than 5,200 in all of 2016.)

In this case, 8,000 is probably pretty close to the real figure—most cars that are stolen outright do get reported to the police, in large part because that’s your only hope of getting your ride back.

Which usually happens! Not to brag, but I too did my part for Portland’s record-setting month: I also got my car stolen (for the third time) in November 2021. As always, I recovered it within a week.

In Mississippi, where the stolen-car recovery rate is 29%, this would have taken a miracle. (Everything takes a miracle in Mississippi.) In the Rose City, however, you actually have a 90% chance of getting your stolen car back—most of it, anyway.

Seen in this light, Sophie and I are actually the lucky ones. So remember, if you want a happy ending to your car-crime story, always leave a set of keys in the glove box. You’re welcome.

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.