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Stolen vehicles recovered in Ohio top $72 million over past 5 years

A look inside Ohio State Highway Patrol's evidence storage for recovered stolen vehicles.
A look inside Ohio State Highway Patrol's evidence storage for recovered stolen vehicles.(WOIO)
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 8:35 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Some victims have been carjacked at gunpoint.

Other times, cars have been stolen from parking lots and even people’s driveways.

This leaves victims reeling from the trauma and the cost.

19 Investigates found car theft is a multi-million dollar crime in Ohio, and state troopers warn it’s going up.

We spoke with one local victim about the costs of car theft.

Chris Hostottle’s night took a terrifying turn just over a week ago.

He said he was out making deliveries for DoorDash on the west side of Cleveland.

“I pulled into a gas station at W. 105th, and Jasper and five guys carjacked me at gunpoint, Hostottle said.

He said the suspects surrounded the car.

“They said, do you really want to die over the car?” he said. “You got five guns in your face, you kind of jump out of the car,” he said.

In a matter of seconds, it was over, but the trauma wasn’t.

Hostottle’s wallet was in the car, and so were some of his work tools.

He shares this car with a friend and depends on it to get to contracting jobs.

Without it, he said he lost thousands of dollars.

“I mean, I had a $3,200 tree job, a $1,500 driveway seal coat job,” he said.

“Transportation is everything. You can’t work, you can’t get food, you can’t go anywhere,” he said.

The gas station at W. 105th and Jasper in Cleveland where Chris Hostottle said he was carjacked...
The gas station at W. 105th and Jasper in Cleveland where Chris Hostottle said he was carjacked at gunpoint.(WOIO)

Those losses add up.

19 Investigates found in northeast Ohio, the average cost per stolen vehicle recovered is about $10,000, according to Sgt. Ray Santiago with Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“That’s a lot. And times are tough, and people work hard for what they have. And making sure that they get to keep that and get it returned to them is a huge responsibility,” Sgt. Santiago said.

19 Investigates discovered since 2016; state troopers have recovered $72.6 million worth of stolen vehicles.

Nearly $22 million of that was from here in northeast Ohio.

And this doesn’t even include stolen cars recovered from local police.

Statewide, according to OSHP statistics, 7,169 stolen vehicles have been recovered in the last five years.

The latest numbers, which were run through mid-July, show stolen vehicle recoveries up eight percent in 2021 when compared to 2020 during the same time period.

“A lot of times, there’s a nexus between stolen cars and firearms. And you see that commonly. Not all of them are just crimes of opportunity where someone jumps in the vehicle and just takes off. Some of them are part of a bigger criminal enterprise,” Santiago said.

When state troopers track down those stolen vehicles, many of them wind up in their evidence storage garage in northeast Ohio.

19 Investigates got a rare look inside.

It’s the first time a news crew has been inside.

We found luxury cars and budget cars, dirt bikes, and construction vehicles in the garage.

Luxury vehicles parked next to dirt bikes and a construction vehicle. All of these stolen...
Luxury vehicles parked next to dirt bikes and a construction vehicle. All of these stolen vehicles were recovered by state troopers.(WOIO)

Each vehicle in evidence storage represents a victim.

Not just the money lost, but a personal story of how theft may have hurt them.

“You feel very violated when your property is taken, and when it’s able to be returned, that’s why we do it,” Santiago said.

The cost of stolen cars also hurts insurance companies and eventually trickles down to us.

But Sgt. Santiago said not everything lost from car theft can be assigned a dollar amount.

“You know lost wages, how many appointments were missed. How many family members had to be burdened with taking someone to an appointment or some of those thing,” he said.

That’s something Hostottle is still recovering from, even after Cleveland Police found his car dumped on the east side of Cleveland several days after he was carjacked.

“No one should have to go through that. What if someone’s child is in the car, and that happens? Somebody could get hurt or even killed,” he said.

A motor vehicle was stolen about every 44 seconds nationwide in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

They recommend parking in well-lit areas, never leaving valuables in your car, and closing and locking all of your windows and doors.

You can read more about vehicle theft prevention from U.S. DOT here.

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