I was standing alongside the cab of a vehicle transporter that had just unloaded a fleet of GMC pickup trucks when roadie Andrew Wilson unexpectedly appeared beside me.
“Who just drove off in one of our trucks, the red Canyon? They were driving like a bat out of hell.” Andrew sounded serious.
Trying to make sense of what he was saying, I uncoupled from the routine task of checking VINs and signing delivery forms for the eight trucks that were being delivered for a driving event the next morning.
“Why did he or she drive past the hotel? Why so fast and who was driving?” I ask myself.
Then it dawns on me. The Canyon has been stolen. What I’ve feared through decades of implementing automotive events all over the world has finally happened.
In an urban jungle as vast as Toronto’s GTA, tracking down a stolen vehicle seemed a daunting task; locating it intact and undamaged an impossibility.
Dealing with who was behind the wheel of the new Canyon that careened around a corner almost ramming into an oncoming car was an undertaking I’d rather leave to police.
I ran to the area where the off-loaded pickups were parked and did a count. Seven trucks. Where was the eighth?
That’s when I realized the one missing was a support vehicle containing six smart phones, three iPads and a printer along with display materials for the program’s presentation the next morning — in short, everything we needed to run our event.
Taking a breath, I dialed 911. The operator gave me a number at Peel Regional Police that I called and, after a series of quick questions the calm, a polite officer took my cell number and said, “We will call you back.”
I was expecting a long wait but another officer called within three minutes with more questions, then gave me an incident file number. It was less than 10 minutes since the theft. I wondered how far the culprit might have gone as I pushed the OnStar button on the bottom of the rear view mirror of one of the other Canyon pickup trucks.
OnStar, GM’s unique vehicle-integrated provider of safety, security and connectivity services, has 2,500 advisors available 24 hours a day to answer questions ranging from ‘Where is the nearest service station?’ to ‘When will the ambulance get here?’ to ‘Can you locate my stolen vehicle?’
My call was transferred to OnStar’s emergency tracking department. I gave them the stolen Canyon’s VIN, licence plate and the Peel Regional Police file number. OnStar told me they needed to corroborate with the police and would get back to me. It was now about 20 minutes after the theft and I felt like I was embedded in a crime television series. Or was it a real-life video game where the bad guys were real people?
OnStar called me back within minutes, announcing the Canyon had been found by satellite and police were on the way to its location. They said it was parked and they had disabled the ignition so the thief couldn’t start it. I was told the police would get back to me once the truck was secured.
In a few minutes an officer arrived and took me to the Canyon that was not far away, hidden behind a dumpster in the rear parking lot of a small convention centre.
I imagined what the police had found. Obviously the contents would be gone and what damage would have been inflicted on the Canyon? But when I arrived at the truck the contents were still inside and there was not a mark on it. The keys were obviously nowhere in sight.
There were cameras everywhere and within an hour, police had secured a surveillance video of the parking lot where the Canyon had been dropped. It showed a white Nissan 370Z roadster with a red top pick up the person who took the Canyon on the one-minute drive from where it had been stolen.
The transport truck driver supplied footage from his dash camera which showed the Canyon speeding away just after the red-topped Nissan roadster circles by three times. The licence plate was blurred, but I could make out that the last three digits were 171.
Of course, with both sets of keys in the thieves’ possession, I ordered a tow truck to take it to a GMC dealership to have key fobs made and the truck re-programmed. I couldn’t help but smile as it was hauled away. With the help of the Peel Regional Police Force, OnStar in Phoenix, Arizona, and Xtreme Towing in Brampton, we had stolen back the GMC Canyon from the bad guys.
Two days later, after a successful event, before heading to the airport for our early morning flight back to Halifax, I drove through the parking lot of a motel down the street that the police had told me was a “cesspool of criminal activity.”
The investigation officer had asked us to keep an eye out for the Nissan get-away car and, sure enough, in the side parking lot, Lisa spotted a white Nissan 370Z roadster. It had a red top and the licence number ended in 171.
As she snapped a picture of it to send to our friends at the Peel Regional Police Force, I checked the rear-view mirror and muttered: “We’d better get out of here.”
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