MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Car theft is growing in the City of Memphis. Law enforcement has been working to crack down on these incidents, but they still happen even in the most unlikely ways.
One Memphis woman left her broken-down car in the care of a tow truck on the highway. Then, the vehicle went missing.
“As of right now, I ride the bus every morning and afternoon to work,” said Pamela Wooten, a Memphis resident. "Life goes on."
Last Wednesday, Wooten had a medical appointment. She was driving on I-40 and Madison Avenue when she began having car trouble. She pulled over to wait for a tow. When she received word that her tow was on its way, she continued to her appointment.
“It was hot out there. It was over 100-degrees on Wednesday, so I had called a co-worker to come and pick me up to assist me,” said Wooten.
After her appointment, Wooten checked on her car.
“I called my mechanic to see if the car had made it there. He said no,” said Wooten. She called the towing company. They did not see her car. The next day, Wooten called around for her car again. No one found it. That is when she reported it stolen.
“I called Highway Patrol believing that there’s a camera somewhere. Somebody saw something,” said Wooten. “The officer there tracked it. He said they went right down Austin Peay Highway into Lauderdale County with my car.”
That was more than an hour away from where she left it.
“It was at a recycling, American Recycling, company," said Wooten. "It was getting ready to be smashed and…junk.”
In less than an hour, Wooten’s car went from being broken to stolen to a chop shop ready to be crushed.
“I still don’t believe it. I still visualize my car on a tow,” said Wooten. “I was told that this has been happening a lot in the city that there’s just randomly picking cars and taking them.”
Tennessee Highway Patrol said they did not have data on these types of incidents, but said many crimes are committed based on opportunity. For Wooten, it is a lesson she’s learned. “Number one, I wish I would have stayed with my car, I probably would have had a heatstroke, but I would’ve still had my car,” said Wooten. “Crime is rapid. People do steal. It’s life. You pick your shoes up and you keep on walking.”
Wooten said police told her the man who stole her car is in jail in Lauderdale County. As for her car, it is still at the chop shop. She is working with the company and her insurance to get her car back.