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Crime Story: Mind your keys

UnknownBy Blake Meacham–On August 20, Joe Genoways walked out to his car during the early morning hours in Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska, when he noticed something fairly important missing: his car.

His Dodge Charger, originally parked in his driveway, was nowhere to be seen. Even stranger was the lack of broken glass where his car was parked. Joe was naturally confused, since he knew he parked it in front of his house the night before and hadn’t been anywhere since. Also, his parents wouldn’t have taken his car without telling him.

He was scratching his head until he realized that if someone, whether it be a burglar or a family member, wanted to take his car, it wouldn’t be difficult because he leaves his keys in his car overnight. When Joe realized that someone had stolen his car in such an easy way, his heart sank.

The first thing he did was call the police to report the stolen vehicle, then he called his parents.

“My parents were so pissed,” said Genoways, with a little laughter in his voice. “But honestly, it’s a common thing in my small hometown to leave your keys in your car. It hasn’t ever backfired before–to me or to anyone else I know.”

The police were equally surprised. This kind of stuff never happens in little ol’ Ft. Calhoun, a modest little town about 15 miles west of Omaha. Despite their surprise, they went to work to discover any details they could. For two days, Joe didn’t hear a word. Finally, the police told him some interesting news: three other cars in Ft. Calhoun were stolen that same night, all because keys were left in them.

After that, Joe got the phone numbers of all the victims and created a group chat with them. They shared the details of their car, as well as anything that was in them, just in case they noticed something on EBay or Craigslist that the perpetrator was trying to sell.

For the next month, there was a whole lot of nothing. According to Joe, it was a frustrating time. “There was really nothing I could do, anyway. I just sat around, calling the police every now and then for any kind of update at all. There was nothing,” he explained.

Thanks to the fact criminals tend to make dumb mistakes, Joe’s prayers were answered. The same burglar and an accomplice of his came back to Ft. Calhoun in late September in an attempt to get lucky again. Instead, they ran into an increased police presence that had been on high alert over the past month. The cops caught the accomplice, but not the man suspected to have stolen the cars the first time around.

The police were led back to the home of the accomplice, where they found the cars that were stolen a month earlier—including Joe’s Dodge Charger. Missing, however, was an expensive stereo system, almost every speaker, and the air conditioning unit. They also stole a majority of Joe’s baseball equipment, which was in the trunk.

“I was ecstatic that they found my car, but I was so angry that they had taken my baseball stuff and the stereo system that I paid for,” explained Joe. “But still, we got the air conditioning fixed and the main speakers replaced. It’s basically as if we got it how it was the first day we bought it.”

Joe got his car back after the minor repairs in early October, about a month and a half after the morning he realized it was missing. He also now knows the name of the main perpetrator, who is still at large for stealing his vehicle, as well as multiple other cars from Ft. Calhoun. Joe thinks the guy is nowhere even close to Omaha, or the Midwest, for that matter.

Most importantly, Joe doesn’t keep his keys in his car anymore.