Los Angeles Times reporter David Zahniser’s 1989 Toyota Camry has been stolen three times in six years. The Los Angeles Police Department received more than 23,000 reports of stolen cars last year. The victims typically dealt with their misfortune by contacting the police, then the insurance agent, then the rental car company, and then — if the car wasn’t recovered — some lucky auto dealer. Zahniser’s car keeps coming back.
One police officer says that Camrys from the late 1980s were “made to be stolen.” Almost any key, if shaved properly, will turn the lock of a 1989 Camry, law enforcement experts tell me. If you Google the words “1989 Camry” and “frequently stolen,” the first website that turns up identifies it as the “most frequently stolen car of 2000.” By 2004, it had fallen to No. 2. Should I be relieved, or are there just a lot of Camrys that were never recovered and are therefore no longer around to steal? The officer says of Zahniser’s car: “They’ll just drive it around till it runs out of gas, then they’ll dump it.”