Property crimes: Car burglary
by Lincoln Han
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Property crimes such as theft, mugging, and burglary are common in the big cities. Turin, the first capitol of the Italian Republic, is notorious of its theft problem, even more than Naples. There is even something call "La scuola di Torino" or "The School of Turin" where infamous thieves are produced. One of the biggest heist in history, the diamond theft from the vault of Antwerp, Belgium, was meticulously carried out by those from "The School of Turin" and went unsolved for years.
While nowhere nearly fascinating as the theft of Antwerp diamonds, my story is more common. In the more than a decade of time I spent in Italy, of which several years I spent in Turin. What can I say? Life is Italy, and particularly Turin is never boring. From the beginning of my move there until the last season of my stay, it has been one problem after another. In no other places I have lived, and I have lived in plenty places across three continents, had I had such concentration of problem in a relative short time span.
My car experienced two break-ins in the span of less than three years. I was away on a trip and before I left I just recently solved the problem with the municipal police about the "Sequestration" of my car, which is a long story in itself and sadly and comically arose from an error on the part of an overzealous policeman, exacerbated by many layers of bureaucrats full of apathy, but eventually righted by the assistance of a responsible policeman. The day after I came back to Turin and began driving again, someone broke my driver side window. Now to put the ying and yang into balance to complete the circle of car trouble, both the law enforcement and the criminal made my life difficult.
Perhaps my 2001 Toyota Celica GT-S with the only California plate in the entire city sitting in a bright summer afternoon captured the wrong attention at the wrong time. Its driver's side window was smashed completely and the thief stole my Garmin GPS (300 euros). I only left my car for about 30 to 45 minutes because I was moving something to my new apartment. I ended up spending the next five hours going to the police filing a report (2 hours), and cleaning the broken glass (3 hours).
The irony is that I initially I called the municipal police, and they said they doní»t really want to come out and investigate and recommended that I go to another branch of police. The national police's (Polizia dello Stato) headquarter is less than 300 meters from my apartment, and when I went there, I was told to go to carabinieri instead. So I went to the nearest carabinieri office and filed a report.
Turin Carabinieri office, the only police you can count on for property crimes
I was angry not just about the theft, but also at the stupidity of the burglar who smashed a partially open window instead of having the professionalism to unlock it skillfully without causing damages! On top of that I had to deal with the bureaucracy and waste my time. I was seriously considering posting a wanted poster around the neighborhood. At the time, I thought if I ever find out who did it, I'll put the guy in the hospital - he will WANT to be arrested by the police. Unfortunately, there is very little legal consequence for crimes like this as I have been told by several lawyers and police.
In big cities most apartments do not come with a garage, and my building did not have space for my car. After the incident, for three nights I placed my car inside my building for security, fortunately it was the summer and the people who normally use the parking space inside were on vacation. My total out of pocket cost between the window repair and lost GPS came to over $700.
Then, in February 2012, my car was covered under about ten centimeters of thick snow from being unused for several days. One morning I went outside and to my surprise, the window on the passenger's side of my car was open. I thought that it is not possible that I had left it open. Then it hit me, the car has been vandalized for the second time! Last time they broke the driver's side window. This time they broke the passenger's side, just to make the damage even.
Nothing valuable was taken except some of my CD collections that I kept in the car. The thief apparently did not open know how to open the trunk latch from the inside because they opened up the gas tank door instead.
I flagged down a municipal police patrol, but was told I have to come to the office to make a report. Once again, it was more wasted time spent on filing the report and cleaning up. The cost to repair the window was around 300 euros.
My first landlord in Turin told me that even her old Fiat 500 could not be spared. One time she went on a trip, came back a week later to find her tire stacked on bricks with all the wheels missing.
Turin had been so far the most problematic city for me in term of property-crime. 2009: vandalism, stolen GPS; 2011: stolen bicycle; 2012: vandalism again, stolen CDs.
If you plan to keep a car in a big city in Italy, expect it to be burglarized or vandalized at some point; carry good insurance policy and if possible get a garage. These are the hidden cost that will make your total cost of ownership rise.