I have recently read multiple accounts of car thieves who attempted to steal a car but gave up — and were caught — because they couldn’t handle a stick shift. Why didn't they just look at the shifter through the window before making their move? My neighbor once interrupted a car theft in progress in my driveway, but the Firebird stayed where it was. The fleeing youths left behind enough burglary tools to stock a small hardware store, plus copious amounts of blood from where they’d apparently cut themselves trying to hot wire the Pontiac. These stories, straight out of “News of the Weird,” led me to wonder if there are a lot of really dumb car thieves out there. It turns out there are!

The thief who couldn’t read: Apparently unable to comprehend the signs that would have informed him he was about to stage a robbery in the parking lot of a Naperville, Ill., security camera showroom, the idiot in the 2008 video below had his entire van theft documented on tape, allowing the police to quickly foil the sap’s attempt at a clean getaway.

The thief who’d never heard of false identities: The plan was genius, the execution lacking. Return with me now to 2007, with the scene being Riverchase Auto in Siloam Springs, Ark. A mastermind named Brian Kauffield and his under-age buddy decided to steal a new Ford. The plan: The buddy would fill out a loan application to distract the salesman while Kauffield grabbed the keys to a Mustang. The hitch: The young friend used his real name and Social Security number on his application.

The thief who never learned how to hot wire: My guess, from the context, is that this theft is occurring somewhere in either Europe or Latin America. The thief, apparently spied out of a window, has trouble opening the door of what looks like an old Fiat 500 — an odd target in the first place. Once he’s in, instead of crossing wires and taking off — simple on a 500! — he brings on his accomplice to…well, watch the video:


The thieves who posed for the cameras: Four British dimwits (nicknamed “dumb, dumber and dumbest” by the authorities), stole a Ford Escort from a driveway in Bournemouth, then promptly tooled it past a picture-taking speed trap. To make sure the cops got a clear look at them, three of the master criminals turned around to face the camera. In amazement, police spokesman Rob Ellis commented, “To have three of them turn to the camera at the same time is quite unusual.” Since the photo (at right) was quite recognizable, the quartet was soon brought to justice, even though they’d torched the poor Escort to hide the evidence.

The thief with too much faith in Craigslist: Remember this name: Valsyl Lazoyshyn, even if you can’t spell it. The Brooklynite answered an ad for a Nissan Maxima for sale, and then stole the car during the test drive. Lacking a tracking device, the unfortunate victim nonetheless managed to solve the crime. His solution? Later that same night, he too went on Craigslist and found an ad for a Maxima that sounded just like his. He called the seller, arranged a meeting, and sure enough Lazoyshyn came back with his car and got arrested.

The thieves who couldn’t resist temptation: The TruTV video here documents a series of criminals who couldn’t resist a “bait car,” left on the street with keys in the ignition and engine running. The jubilant expressions on their faces when they think they’re getting away with a free car is only matched by the dismay more than evident when they’re getting their faces slammed to the pavement.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

6 dumb car thieves
Stealing a car isn't rocket science, but it may as well be for these aspiring master criminals, all of whom got caught.