ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – They moved to Albuquerque a year ago, but a local couple hasn’t gotten the warmest welcome. Their car has already been stolen three times. This time the car owners know exactly where their car is, but they can’t get it back.
Dale Haydon is getting used to a different pace these days. With drivers zipping by him on Central to get to their destinations, Dale starts his walk early to get to a dentist appointment.
“It’s not so bad in the summertime, but in the wintertime it’s cold,” Dale explained.
He and his wife Kirstin Grouette can’t just hop in their own car and go where they want to anymore.
“Nothing but bad luck it seems,” Dale said.
Since they moved to Albuquerque from Utah last November, the couple said their old trusty Saturn has been stolen not once, not twice, but three times in a year.
“It sounds like a bad country song right?” Dale laughed.
Jokes aside, however, he and Kirstin are frustrated.
“It was a little POS, it got me where I needed to go, but it was mine,” Kirstin told KRQE News 13. “And now I have nothing in a place that I don’t know, in a culture that I’m not familiar with, and it’s scary.”
The first time the car was stolen, Albuquerque police found it abandoned a short time later.
Kirstin then filed a second police report in March after it was stolen again. This time, she said, a friend spotted the thief driving it around.
“She followed it and we called the cops and recovered it then,” Dale recalled.
However, the couple never recovered everything that was in the car when it was stolen.
“Her birth certificate, my guitars, all my artwork, it was devastating,” he added.
The couple recently moved to a gated apartment complex in northeast Albuquerque, but that didn’t keep their car from getting swiped yet again.
“Ultimately it’s been a nightmare,” said Kirstin.
Of course, they’re not alone in being victims of this type of crime in Albuquerque, one of the worse cities for car theft in the country.
“We have seen an increase in auto theft in Albuquerque alone, but across the nation, we’ve seen auto theft go up,” said officer Fred Duran, of the Albuquerque Police Department.
KRQE News 13 has reported on what often happens when thieves take a joy ride in some of APD’s bait cars. Police video shows the shock of some of the criminals’ faces once they realize they’re caught.
However, in many cases the car thieves remain faceless, always looking for their next target.
“Would you do this to your mom? Because I wouldn’t,” said Kirstin.
What’s more frustrating, the couple said, is that they now know where their car is, but they can’t get it back.
They got a call from APD a week ago saying their car was found abandoned near an Auto Zone on the west side.
But, Kirstin said, when they couldn’t find a ride out there quick enough, police towed the car.
“Now it’s stuck in the impound yard, I don’t have the money and it’s racking up the bill every day,” said Dale. “I feel like I’ve been victimized twice.”
The old Saturn is now gutted and trashed.
“My front seat is busted, it won’t start,” said Kirstin.
This time with the interior stripped and the ignition tampered with, just sitting in the impound yard, the Saturn has probably racked up more in towing and impound fees than it’s worth.
Currently, the owners would have to pay more than $400 to get the car back, and that price is going up each day.
“I don’t think it’s right that people are getting ripped off and then ripped off again,” said Dale.
“We do work hard in order to try and work with the owners in order to get the vehicles back to them, and unfortunately sometimes it just doesn’t happen,” said officer Duran.
Duran said APD officers try to give victims a fair amount of time to pick up a stolen car once it’s found.
However, officer Duran added, if the vehicle is not running or if the officer needs to get to another call, they’ll have the car towed.
For now, Kirstin relies on medical transport to get to doctor appointments, while Dale puts in his fair share of daily steps.
Both are finding their way around a city they love, but can’t seem to catch a break in.
“It’s almost demoralizing,” said Dale.
“There’s a lot of beauty in this city, but there’s a lot of ugly if you let it get to you,” Kirstin added.
The tow company said if the couple hands over the title for the car, they can cut their losses. Meanwhile, APD warns drivers should at least use a steering wheel club or brake locking device to deter thieves.