Bungling crooks still at large

A note to car thieves: If you're going to steal cars using a tow truck, learn how to operate the tow truck first.

Last month, someone stole a flatbed tow truck from a lot in Bloomington. Eyewitnesses stated the truck was purple and bore the words "Elite Towing."

The tow truck reappeared in Inver Grove Heights on Nov. 2, when a resident in the Blackberry Point Apartments noticed that a tow truck was hauling away a Chevrolet Caprice. The tow truck didn't have the vehicle adequately secured on the flatbed and was dragging the vehicle's rear tires. The Caprice's exhaust pipe caused sparks as it bounced against the pavement.

Drag marks from the vehicle crossed Upper 55th Street S. to Blackberry Trail, where the marks disappeared.

According to the Inver Grove Heights Police Department, the crooks finally gave up and drove off without the car, which had sustained significant damage during the attempted theft.

Inver Grove Heights police tried to locate a phone number for "Elite Towing," but couldn't find any such company.

The next day, the individuals and their stolen tow truck appeared in Mendota Heights, where they attempted to steal a vehicle from the parking lot of Henry Sibley High School. Again, the bungling duo couldn't attach that vehicle securely. The vehicle was dropped and slammed into a parked vehicle, resulting in damage to both cars. Again, the thieves left without their prize.

Although more than a month has passed since these incidents, the suspects have not been located, according to local authorities.

As strange as these thefts may sound, it's not the first time it's happened this year in the east metro. Police report that the owners of M&H Import and Domestic Auto in Oakdale had their tow truck stolen this fall. That tow truck was recovered after a homeowner noticed the vehicle had been abandoned in St. Paul.

The truck was damaged by the inexperienced thieves; they even left behind the grill of a 2003 Dodge Caravan.

At the time, Oakdale police Sgt. Bill Hutton said, (Tow truck theft) has not occurred, that I'm familiar with, in Oakdale. I haven't heard of it as a trend. Definitely not in our community."

But Bill Schultz, director of operations for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said, "Using a tow truck to steal cars is not very new.

"That concept has been around for a long time."

If anyone spots a purple "Elite" tow truck or a tow truck whose operators are behaving suspiciously, they are asked to contact the Mendota Heights Police Department at 452-1366.

"A lot of tips come from neighbors being alert," noted a police spokesperson.

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