OnStar Helps Stop Car Thieves in Their Tracks

OnStar Helps Stop Car Thieves in Their Tracks

Discovery

No one likes to think it could happen to them. Especially in Beach Park, Ill., a safe, quiet village north of Chicago that doesn’t seem like the sort of place where your car could be stolen from your home in the dead of night.

So thought Venessa Irizarry and her husband, Joseph Davis. But when it happened to them, they didn’t panic. And their first call wasn’t to police. It was to OnStar.

It was a cool March day, and the couple had spent the afternoon shopping, leaving the mall around 7 p.m. to head home. They parked Venessa’s 2013 Buick Verano in the garage, locked up and headed inside for the night. Just like they had done a thousand times before.

Joseph saw it first. He was up early to head to his carpentry job, and when he went out to the garage, Venessa’s car was gone.

For many car-theft victims, this is where the story ends — at least until the vehicle turns up stripped of parts on the side of a road.

But Venessa and Joseph had OnStar. And they knew OnStar had the ability to help locate her vehicle, which is why they called OnStar before remembering to contact the police.

“The Advisor was super helpful,” Venessa says.

The Advisor contacted police for them, and an officer arrived at their home a few minutes later and took their report.

“One of the questions we ask people is if they have OnStar,” says Sgt. Christopher Covelli, public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Why? Because authorities know OnStar Stolen Vehicle Assistance9 can put car thieves at a disadvantage. Sgt. Covelli says that the technology can significantly increase the odds of locating the car.

Using the vehicle’s built-in technology, OnStar quickly located Venessa’s Verano. It was on the move.

Recovery

The last thing car thieves want is to draw attention to themselves. But when they steal a car that has OnStar, they may not have a choice.

Once authorities spot a vehicle they believe to be stolen, an OnStar Advisor can flash the vehicle’s lights to let officers know they have the right one. And if the thieves attempt to make a break for it, Stolen Vehicle Slowdown®9 can help thwart unsafe car chases by immobilizing the throttle and preventing the vehicle from speeding up.

“Stolen Vehicle Slowdown can help if you have a dangerous offender who attempts to flee,” Sgt. Covelli says.

That’s exactly what happened with Venessa’s vehicle. The Advisor flashed the vehicle’s lights to confirm police had the right one. But when Lake County Sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop it, the driver sped away. So the OnStar Advisor sent the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown signal.

It must have been confusing for the thieves inside the vehicle. Why was the gas pedal suddenly not responding to the driver’s touch? Why was the car slowing down? Why wouldn’t it accelerate?

As the vehicle gradually slowed to a stop, the police closed in. But the passengers weren’t ready to give up just yet. All three jumped out of the now immobile vehicle and attempted to flee on foot. A chase ensued.

But not for very long. All three were arrested. And Venessa’s car was back home within a day.

“The police officer said if we didn’t have OnStar, we probably wouldn’t have recovered the vehicle,” Venessa says.

Rediscovery

Venessa didn’t make much use of OnStar after first buying her car. But it’s now a vital part of her driving experience.

“I keep OnStar for safety or in case I don’t have my cellphone charged in an emergency,” she says. “You never know when you need it until you need it.”

Because pushing the red Emergency button is easier than trying to unlock a cellphone, she says she has talked to her kids about using it as well.

“I definitely educated my children that when there is an emergency, to push that red button [so that an OnStar Advisor can connect you to help] — but only if it’s an emergency and they need 911,” Venessa says.

She also has acted as a Good Samaritan by reporting crashes,7 such as the time she contacted OnStar after witnessing a semitruck flip over on the highway.

“The Advisors are so calm, which helps in these frantic situations,” she says. “I stayed on the scene until police and fire arrived, which was only a few minutes later.”

In the end, Venessa can’t imagine having a car without OnStar.

“I love OnStar, and I don’t think I would ever buy another vehicle that doesn’t have it.”

Here's how OnStar Stolen Vehicle Assistance works:

  1. An OnStar Member calls OnStar to report a stolen vehicle and files a police report.
  2. Using GPS technology, the OnStar Advisor can help authorities locate the stolen vehicle and assist them in recovering the vehicle. OnStar can remotely block the ignition, preventing restart of the vehicle.
  3. If the vehicle is in motion, an Advisor can work with police to send a signal to the vehicle to gradually slow it down when conditions are safe.
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7 Visit onstar.com for vehicle availability, details and system limitations. OnStar acts as a link to existing emergency service providers.
9 Services vary by model and conditions. Visit onstar.com for vehicle availability, details and system limitations.