A Montgomery County, Maryland, man recovered his own stolen vehicle last Thursday after it was taken from his home driveway in the early morning hours. He said he used a car app to track his wife’s 2019 Volvo to Southeast D.C.
Shane Neff, a Darnestown resident, said when he went outside Thursday morning to take the car into the shop for a scheduled appointment to get new tires, the car was gone.
“It’s a weird feeling when you wake up and it’s not there,” Neff said. “It’s confusing.”
He said he asked his wife if she got dropped off at home the night before, or parked the car somewhere else. When she said no, he knew it had to be stolen. The couple thought the car was locked, but they didn’t know for sure.
Neff called his neighbor, a Montgomery County Police detective, and also filed a formal complaint online.
The off-duty detective asked Neff if his car had a tracking app. To Neff’s surprise, it did, and he was able to track the car to the streets of D.C.
Neff said he found his car on 30th Street in Southeast, near Minnesota Avenue.
The front license plate was missing. He also saw footprints in the back seat and passenger areas of the car, so he assumed at least three people jacked his car the night before.
“We looked to make sure no one was standing around the car — since there wasn’t I just hopped in, started it and left,” said Neff, a former federal probation officer. “I did this for a living. I’ve been in unfamiliar neighborhoods before.”
There wasn’t much damage to the car, Neff said, just a scratch on the side. “Not that bad.”
When asked what the car smelled like, Neff said it was different.
“It didn’t have the familiar smell of my wife’s car, but it didn’t smell like weed.”
The other observation was that Neff found the car unlocked.
“The criminals left it unlocked. What the hell is wrong with them?”
When he got back home, he reached out to his neighbor across the street to warn him about the theft the night before.
His neighbor said his house was hit too, but thankfully everything was accounted for. His neighbor also said he had a security camera with footage of the theft.
In the footage, Neff could see people in the dark of night, using flashlights and gloves to check car doors in his neighbor’s driveway.
Neff said his neighbors have a beagle that barks all the time, but in this case, the dog didn’t make a sound.
“I don’t know if the word’s out in some of the other jurisdictions, that it’s easier to steal a car in this county,” Neff said.
Montgomery County Police Department’s auto theft unit was disbanded earlier this year because of FY 2021 budget cuts.
Montgomery County police did not return a request for comment by the publication of this story.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to the number of auto thefts in the county.