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Did these joyriding teens who stole a fleet of CA Gov cars prevent an even bigger debacle?

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Department of General Services
A screenshot of what the garage of the Department of General Services looks like

At least 21 cars and SUV’s were stolen from the fleet garage of the State of California run by the Department of General Services.

*Let me preface this opinion piece by saying that my title does NOT in any way shed a positive light on what this group of teenagers did. They stole cars and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Here are the facts. According to CBSLocal news and a press release from the Department of General Services that dropped earlier today (Jun. 6, 2017) at least 21 vehicles were stolen from the state garage located on the corner of 10th and O St. over Memorial Day weekend. As of this writing, according to Fox40 News, at least 13 vehicles have been recovered and six perpetrators are in custody in connection with the grand thefts. In one case, two drivers were as young as 15-years-old.

Since the incident, the garage underwent a full security assessment complete with electronic entry and exit being one of the main recommendations. Below are a couple of statements from state employees at the scene on the matter.

“I’m shocked, it’s shameful,” said one state employee exiting the garage off 10th and O streets Monday.

“It’s a wake-up call. A friend of mine from work warned me this was gonna change a lot with DGS,” said state employee Theresa Chaney.

One car stolen would be an anomaly in anyone’s book but to have an entire fleet of cars stolen means there was a major security flaw that was exposed. A cursory glance at the front of their garages reveals that indeed there isn’t, at the bare minimum, electronic swinging arms like you’d find at normal parking garages.

State of California fleet
Garage where Calif Fleet vehicles are stored
State of California fleet
Garage where Calif Fleet vehicles are stored

And if you head on over to their fleet reservations page, you can see that in order to even get a vehicle you must be a California State Employee whose previously registered into the online reservation system so this wasn’t some sort of inside job.

Department of general services
Department of General Services procedure to get a vehicle
Department of general services
Department of General Services procedure to get a vehicle

The fact that one state employee said that this type of debacle was inevitable leads us to believe that there was a major flaw in the system. Shots of the vehicles in the parking garage reveals that these state vehicles aren’t all that old, but newer model Fords. The immobilizer key on modern cars means that these vehicles weren’t just hot-wired and driven away, someone had to get to the stash of keys ala “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

When this author was working as a car porter at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership, things were done the old fashioned way. That meant we managed our inventory of repaired cars and keys with a good ol’ fashioned tag on a pegboard. Were keys handled in the same fashion in this case?

Then there’s the stealing of 21 vehicles by teenagers. How’d they hatch and orchestrate such a grand joy-riding plan? Although there are absolutely no details on how they managed to pull it off, we think a bit of social media was used, specifically snapchat, Instagram stories, you name it. Some teenager must’ve wandered into that state garage, managed to snag a key to a vehicle and drive off. A quick post on social media along the lines of “free cars on 0 st. We joy riding.” to the wrong set of people probably spread like wildfire, and bingo, you’ve got the perfect storm for a bunch of teenagers swiping cars.

According to police, “the cars have not been linked to any crimes.” But imagine a scenario where someone seriously had ill intent. A chop shop could’ve made off with a huge profit by reselling parts or some nefarious perp could’ve caused some serious property damage if he so wished if he snagged a larger vehicle in the pool.

While this is all an unfortunate incident, we’re glad to see these cars returning to HQ and the security flaws being remedied. Hopefully, this incident will serve as a reminder to other government agencies who might’ve put security on the backburner to act now to avoid being put in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

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