Grand Theft Auto: What You Feel When Your 'Whip' Gets 'Jacked'

Crimes of New York Column

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A man and his car are like a noble cowboy and valiant steed. They feel connected. They are in synch with one another. Imagine what it would be like if a brutal degenerate shot one of John Wayne's horses? What if in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Lee Van Cleef had gone after Clint Eastwood's stallion. How would he have reacted?

On Monday, John Villarosa walked into Dick's Sporting Goods of Woodbridge, N.J., and walked out without a ride home. Although he was only in the store for about an hour to pick up a few items, he noticed the same individual following him wherever he went. Villarosa brushed it off and continued shopping. He left the store with the intention of heading home, but his car was nowhere to be found.

I was confused for a second because I am very on top of things, says Villarosa. I walked around and there was nothing there.

His car was stolen. Gone from the parking lot and ripped from his life.

Villarosa was at a loss. Over the years, he invested his time, energy and money into his car and in an instant it was taken from him.

I don't know how to describe this. I'm so used to taking it for granted, he says of his car. Immediately, Villarosa began getting the word out about his missing car. He alerted the authorities and took to the Internet, using social media and message boards to raise awareness. He conducted research his own research too.

Right now, from my understanding, it is actually an organized ring, says Villarosa. They have been active for probably the last month or so, just based on my research.

In fact, he said he was informed that several cars were stolen out of the Woodbridge area and surrounding townships. Villarosa also believes that the man following in the store was part of the crew of thieves.

My theory is that I was watched, he says. There was a party of thieves, and they had chosen my car.

Just about every 33 seconds, an auto theft occurs. That translates to nearly 1.1 million auto thefts per year. The FBI tallies and analyzes crime statistics around the country. According to preliminary reports, the 2011 Uniform Crime Report shows a 5 percent decrease motor vehicle thefts compared to 2010. In fact, FBI reported that all three categories of property crime -- burglary, larceny-theft and auto theft -- showed declines. While it certainly appears that car thefts on are on the decline, that does not help Villarosa and his stolen vehicle.

One of the things that come up for this is that it stimulates a lot of emotions for people, Dr. Carl Shubs tells International Business Times' Crimes of New York. Shubs is a trauma-certified psychologist who helps victims cope with the events they experienced out of his private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. It is normal for people to be sad, vulnerable and angry.

Shubs suggested that a car could hold a symbolic meaning for many people.

For one thing, there is just the financial aspect of whatever money someone put into it, he says. He also says that people who put an enormous amount of effort into their vehicles will feel emotional effects from the robbery.

It is not only the car that was taken from them, he says. It is that their time and energy is taken from them. Cars, Shubs says, are also a way for individuals to express their status.

The car could identify them as someone who is sporty, or really cool, or sturdy and responsible, reliable, says Shubs. Cars are made to suit all kinds of different personal needs and things we think of as important. When that is taken from them, all of those feelings of specialness and worthwhileness could feel like they are taken away as well.

Criminals will steal vehicles for cash, plain and simple. Chop shops are still popular sources for thieves to take their stolen goods. It is also popular for thieves to simply ship cars off to various countries to sell, specifically Mexico. Villarosa hopes he will be able to see his car again. However, he says he is realistic and does not expect it to come back in one piece, that it would probably be stripped to the bare metal. The only thing he can do for now, is to continue to get the word out online and get wait.

Well, I'm just accepting it, trying to deal with it day by day.

Here are some helpful hints you could use in order to avoid having your car stolen.

-          Never leave your keys inside the vehicle.

-          Double check! Make sure you locked all doors and shut all windows.

-          Always park in well-lit areas. If you cannot see 100 feet in front of you, find a different spot.

-          Never leave any visible valuables inside of the car.

And the most obvious tip of them all:

-          Never leave your car while it is still running.

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