Tag Archives: car


A crime common in the 1930’s and 1940’s has returned with a new twist. Instead of an individual breaking through a store-front window to grab jewelry or other valuables out of the shop’s display, groups of thieves now are using cars and pick-up trucks to crash into shops. It’s a carefully orchestrated crime known as smash-and-grab.

These are not random acts of theft. High-end merchandise, especially designer handbags and clothing, is targeted. Think of Louis Vuitton handbags costing $2,000 to $6,000 and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes ranging from $300 to $700. Think of Giuseppe shoes for $1,000 a pair. Think of merchandise at GameStop.

Why do the thieves steal the high-end merchandise and ignore the inexpensive items? Robert Lombardo, associate professor of criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, said thieves steal high-end merchandise because “that’s the stuff people want.” He explained that local thieves may attempt to sell the merchandise in the neighborhood. The merchandise stolen by professional criminals may be “bound for resale in other markets.”

Generally, the thieves target stores on streets rather than in malls. Wearing masks and gloves, the burglars drive a car or a van or a pick-up truck through the store’s front door or glass window. Then the thieves quickly grab as much high-end merchandise as they can carry, and they rush out the door. On November 26, 2014, the actions of one group of thieves were caught on a surveillance video in the store.

On April 17, 2018, a team of smash-and-grab thieves drove a stolen vehicle through the entrance of a GameStop in the 1500 block of North Cicero in the North Austin area of Chicago. The burglars stole cash and merchandise and then fled the scene. They left the stolen car embedded in the entrance of the store.

Stores in malls are not immune to smash-and-grab burglaries. On November 18, 2014, burglars drove through the outside entrance of the Northbrook Court mall and through a corridor before slamming into the Louis Vuitton store. The burglars were dressed in black pants and black hooded sweatshirts. They wore gloves and either ski masks or surgical masks.

A video surveillance system recorded the action as burglars with sledgehammers broke a hole in the glass, and the thieves climbed through the hole one after another to get into the store. They quickly gathered purses and bags from the shelves and from behind the counter, and then they ran into the mall.

A similar smash-and-grab burglary occurred September 7, 2014 at the Louis Vuitton store at the Oakbrook Center mall. Thieves rammed a minivan into the store and stole about $120,000 worth of merchandise. On November 4, 2014, a smash-and-grab occurred at the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall in Aurora. A minivan rammed through the front window of Salvatore Ferragamo. The burglars stole $40,000 worth of purses and luggage.

—By Karen Centowski

To see the surveillance video of a smash-and-grab in Chicago, go to the November 27, 2014 Chicago Tribune article, “Crash-and-grab burglars hitting high-end stores in suburbs and Chicago.”


If you are the owner of a Chevrolet, you may have recently received a postcard from a manager at the Chevrolet dealership where you purchased the car. On this computer-generated postcard, the manager says that she is interested in buying your 2009 Chevrolet Impala. She says that the Chevrolet dealer has customers looking for these vehicles, but they don’t have any on their lot. She asks you to please call her ASAP, and she gives her phone number.

The postcard itself is a top-notch job in marketing. The name, address, phone number, and logo of the local dealership on the postcard gets your attention and keeps you from immediately throwing the postcard into the wastebasket. You have done business with this dealer in the past and have had a good experience. In fact, you probably continue to take your car to that dealer for routine maintenance. If you’ve ever needed a major repair, for sure you have taken the vehicle to a Chevrolet dealer. The “message” on the card is written in the handwriting style of a woman. It’s a personal touch to a business transaction. Finally, the writer appeals to the universal desire for a good deal by saying, “As a manager, I can offer you more!”

Is this a legitimate offer to buy your car, or it simply a trick to get you into the dealership so they can sell you a new car? Does the dealer actually have a potential customer who wants to buy a 2009 Chevrolet Impala? How much more in cash can the manager really offer? If she gives you $500 more than the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value of your car, is that really such a good deal? You would no longer have your car and would have to buy another one. You’d be standing there in the dealer’s showroom salivating over all the new cars. The dealer has you exactly where he wants you.

Ask yourself this question: Would a dealer send out thousands of postcards to find one 2009 Chevrolet Impala to sell? With all due respect to owners of 2009 Chevrolet Impalas, these are not high value collector cars. How much money would the dealer make by selling one 2009 Chevrolet Impala?

More likely, a computer at Chevrolet headquarters has generated thousands of postcards to Chevrolet owners like you. Each postcard is personalized with the owner’s name in the “handwritten note.” Each postcard names the correct make and model of the owner’s car. Each postcard is “signed” by a manager at the dealership. It is all a clever marketing tool to get you into the showroom.

If you really are interested in buying a new Chevrolet, do your research and go to your friendly Chevrolet dealer. You don’t need an invitation. They will be delighted to see you.

—By Karen Centowski


If you live in Chicago or the collar counties, you are probably accustomed to the huge number of shootings or homicides that occur in the city. Now another crime, carjacking, has surged to its highest numbers in at least ten years, according to a Chicago Tribune article printed December 29, 2017.

Although the vast number of shootings and homicides tended to be concentrated on the South and West sides, carjacking occurred throughout the city, often in trendy neighborhoods and downtown. Among the 967 victims of carjacking in Chicago in 2017 were ordinary citizens, an off-duty police officer, and a Lyft driver.

What is carjacking? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the theft of an automobile from its driver by force or intimidation.” The word “carjacking” is actually a combination of car + hijack + ing. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1991.

Thieves often use force, threatening the drivers with a gun or knife, to rob their victims of their money and their vehicles. Sometimes the thieves then use the vehicles in drive-by shootings, smash-and-grab burglaries, and other crimes. Sometimes they might just go for a joy ride in the car and abandon it on a city street.

What methods do criminals use to steal the cars? One method is called “bump-and-run.” The criminals intentionally drive their car into the rear of the victim’s car. When the driver gets out of his car to survey the damage and exchange insurance information, the criminals threaten the victim with a weapon, jump into the car, and drive away.

Darren Reboletti, a Lyft driver, was dropping off his Lyft passenger around 1:30 A.M. on December 20, 2017 on the South Side of Chicago when he felt another car bump into his brand-new Jeep Cherokee from behind. When he got out to check the damage, someone from the other car jumped into his Jeep. Reboletti tried to pull the thief out of the Jeep, but the thief kicked him, swore at him, and threatened to kill him. Reboletti backed off, and the thief drove away in his 2017 Jeep. The second vehicle, a blue Ford Exposition, also fled.

Another method is distraction. The criminals place a $20.00 bill under the windshield wiper of a parked car. When the driver gets out to retrieve the $20.00 bill, the thieves jump into the car and drive away.

A third method is armed robbery. On December 18, 2017, an off-duty Chicago police officer was sitting in his personal car two blocks from police department headquarters on the South Side. Two men approached the officer’s car. One man tapped on the passenger’s side window to distract the officer. The other man, Carlos Hendricks, age 18, went to the driver’s side, pulled a gun, and demanded the car. According to the Chicago Tribune article “Police: Charges filed against man shot while carjacking off-duty Chicago cop near headquarters,” the officer fired one shot and hit Hendricks in the abdomen. Hendricks was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The other suspect ran away and remained at large as of December 19. A gun belonging to Hendricks was recovered from the scene.

—By Karen Centowski


One of the hazards of providing home healthcare is the daily challenge of driving to and from the client’s home. In Winter, the streets may be snow-packed or icy. In Spring, roads may be flooded. Even under ideal conditions, driving can be challenging.

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has published an overview of hazards in home healthcare at https://www.osha.gov. The article states that home healthcare workers “have little control over their work environment which may contain a number of safety hazards. These hazards include bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards, latex sensitivity, ergonomic hazards from patient lifting, violence, hostile animals and unhygienic and dangerous conditions. In addition, if their daily work schedule requires them to provide care for multiple patients, they face hazards on the road as they drive from home to home.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published six Fact Sheets to assist in reducing home healthcare workers’ risk for injury and illness. Publication Number 2012-122 focuses on preventing or reducing driving related injuries. The Fact Sheet addresses behaviors and conditions which contribute to car accidents. These include distracted driving, aggressive driving, failure to use a seatbelt, driving while tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, poor weather conditions, and poorly maintained vehicles.

What can you do to protect yourself? The OSHA Fact Sheet lists the following things employees should do to prevent driving-related injuries:

  • Use seatbelts.
  • Stop the vehicle before using a cell phone.
  • Avoid distracting activities such as eating, drinking, and adjusting radio and other controls while driving.
  • Avoid driving when over-tired.
  • Use detailed maps to determine your route before you leave, or use a GPS.
  • Have the vehicle checked and serviced regularly.
  • Keep the gas tank at least a quarter full.
  • Carry an emergency kit containing a flashlight, extra batteries, flares, a blanket, and bottled water.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about distracted driving, go to Distracted Driving Presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfknB9CZiA8.


american car

With the globalization of automobile manufacturing, is it possible to buy an American-Made car in 2017? The answer is “Yes.”

In an article called “AMERICA STRONG” in the July 2, 2017 issue of the Chicago Tribune, the author describes the sizeable portion of car shoppers who want to buy American. According to the article, “A recent survey on Cars.com found that about 25 percent of respondents would only consider an American manufacturer.” That figure is nearly double the percentage that answered the same way in 2016.

What percentage of cars are still American made? The article states that “the largest block of this year’s respondents (again, about 25 percent) thought that between 31 percent and 40 percent of cars sold in the U.S. are “American made.” That’s accurate if it’s strictly automakers fully headquartered in the U.S.—namely Ford, GM, and Tesla, whose combined sales through May account for about a third of all U.S. auto sales, per Automotive News.”

For the past eleven years, Cars.com has released its American-Made Index. The index “analyzes cars assembled in the U.S. with high domestic-parts content, predominant U.S. sourcing for engines and transmissions, and high U.S. manufacturing jobs supported per vehicle.” Below is the Cars.com 2017 American-Made Index:

2017 Model (Assembly location)

  1. Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited (Toledo, Ohio and Belvidere, Illinois)
  2. Jeep Cherokee (Toledo, Ohio and Belvidere, Illinois)
  3. Ford Taurus (Chicago, Illinois)
  4. Honda Ridgeline (Lincoln, Alabama)
  5. Acura RDX (East Liberty, Ohio)
  6. Ford F-150 (Dearborn, Michigan and Clayborn, Missouri)
  7. Ford Expedition (Louisville, Kentucky)
  8. GMC Acadia (Spring Hill, Tennessee)
  9. Honda Odyssey (Lincoln, Alabama)
  10. Honda Pilot (Lincoln, Alabama)

What is the total impact of the global auto industry on U.S. jobs? According to the Michigan based Center for Automotive Research, 322,000 Americans were directly employed by automakers. In addition, another 521,000 worked at automotive suppliers. New car dealers employed another 710,000 Americans.

Many additional jobs exist because of the U.S. auto industry. The list includes used car dealers, independent repair shops, finance and insurance companies. According to the article, “AMERICA STRONG,” “the Center for Automotive Research estimated in 2015 that the U.S. auto industry directly contributed to the creation of another 5.7 million private-sector jobs. That’s 7.25 million private-sector jobs attributable to the auto industry, the center found, with some $500 billion in annual compensation—nearly $70,000 apiece. In sum, the center noted the auto industry supported some 3.8 percent of all private-sector jobs and historically has accounted for 3 to 3.5 percent of the U.S. GDP.”

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video 2015 Ford F-150 Assembly Line—YouTube, go to https://youtu.be/LOVse3YUrQI.



Where do you go to have the oil changed in your car? Do you take it to the dealer who sold the car to you? Do you take it to a gas station with mechanics you trust?

Maybe you’ve pulled into a quick lube shop to have the oil changed. You were in a hurry, and you didn’t need an appointment there. You drove past it every day on your way home from work, but you never took your car there.

Soon after the technician pulls your car into the bay, he comes out to talk with you. He tells you that your car needs extra services. According to www.autoblog.com, the recommended service they advise usually includes one or more of the following: high mileage oil, fluid system cleaning, brake fluid flush, transmission flush, and transfer case or differential fluid change. You don’t know a thing about cars except how to drive them. How do you know if the recommended service is necessary or just a way for the technician to make a quick buck?

One way to find out more about your vehicle is to read the owner’s manual. It will tell you how often your car should receive an oil change, a new air filter, tire rotation, transmission flush, radiator service, etc.

Before you have any major work done, get a second opinion It may be inconvenient to get a second opinion, but it could save you a lot of money. It can confirm legitimate service recommendations and weed out upselling. Ask a mechanic you trust to take a look at the vehicle. This could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Several news organizations have done investigative reporting about the problems with upselling. First, they ask a highly rated, highly certified auto technician to examine and run tests on the vehicles to be used in the study. The auto technician provides written reports of the assessments. This gives the investigative reporters an idea of what might be legitimate upselling.

Then the investigative reporters are sent to quick lube shops to have the oil changed. If the auto shop recommends additional services, the investigative reporter questions the need for the service and asks for estimates. The costs can be significant!

The investigative reporter then leaves the quick lube shop and asks the highly rated, highly certified auto technician to review the recommendations. The technician determines what was a needed service and what was simply a case of upselling.

The average person has a limited knowledge about the maintenance of cars. It is easy to feel pressured when an auto technician at a quick lube shop recommends an additional service. However, be aware that the auto technician at the quick lube shop receives a “cut” or bonus for each additional service. He may not have your best interests in mind. Upselling benefits not only the auto shop but also the auto technician who persuades the customer to authorize additional services. Be careful!

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about oil change upselling, go to Oil Change Scams: Hidden Camera Investigation On What Really Happens to Your Car (CBC Marketplace) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-avpx8UTakI.



At 6:30 p.m. on June 30, 2017, twenty oil tanker cars belonging to Canadian National Railway derailed near to the downtown in Plainfield, Illinois, forty miles southwest of Chicago. The cars piled up against each other, accordion style. Four of the tanker cars leaked, and 45,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. Much of the crude oil flowed into trenches along the railroad. Fortunately, none of the oil reached the DuPage River. None of the oil caught fire.

Moving crude oil by rail has been controversial. Shipments from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota peaked at 498,271 in 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads. At that time, many oil tanker cars being used to transport the oil from North Dakota to refineries on the East Coast were older with fewer safety features. In 2015, twenty-one tanker cars on a Burlington-Northern Santa Fe train derailed just south of Galena, Illinois. Several of them ruptured, split open, and blew up. The 105-car train was headed to Chicago at the time of the accident.

According to the March 6, 2015 ABC -7 Chicago news report at http://abc-7chicago.com, “New information from federal authorities is that that 25 million Americans live within the 1-mile evacuation zone that straddles tracks used by crude oil lines. Dozens of the tanker trains crisscross metro Chicago each week.”

In December of 2015, President Obama signed a transportation law called the FAST Act. The law requires that the new cars must have thicker steel shells, insulating materials, full-size metal shields at each end, and improved outlet valves underneath the car.

The new rules create a new standard, “high-hazard, flammable trains.” These are defined as “a continuous block of twenty or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through-out a train.” Tanker cars carrying petroleum crude oil are marked with a DOT placard with a hazmat symbol and the number 1267.

According to http://www.chicagotribune.com, “Seventy percent of the oil being fracked out of those booming fields in North Dakota’s Bakken region is shipped via what the oil industry calls a ‘rolling pipeline’ of railroad trains.” Despite the obvious problems of transporting oil by rail, the Association of American Railroads has pointed out that railroads have an excellent safety record with crude oil, even surpassing pipelines in recent years.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about the oil tanker train, go to Freight Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails in Suburban Plainfield You Tube.