Accidental Car Theft: It’s a Thing


As a teenager, I drove a 1984 Honda Accord. It was charcoal gray, just like every other 1984 Accord in existence.

On more than one occasion I remember walking up to the wrong one, even putting my hand on the door handle, before realizing it wasn’t my car. For me, the first indication that it wasn’t mine was the lack of a wet towel jammed between the leaky sunroof and the headliner to prevent rainwater from dousing my head.

While it would’ve been nice to drive away in a car with leak-proof roof, I never did steal anyone’s car in place of mine.

Many years later my mom drove a 2012 Subaru. She parked at a grocery store, but came back to the wrong car and actually sat down inside and tried to start it before realizing she’d made a mistake.

A funny story out of the New York Post tells the tale of a mother who actually succeeded in an accidental theft, which makes me wonder just how often things like this happen.

The 80s and 90s weren’t exactly great years for automotive security. Simple manual locks and keys that were interchangeable made it pretty easy to break into, and even steal, cars.

Which is how Cheryl Thorpe became an unwitting car thief.

With her daughter on vacation, Thorpe needed to move a 1993 Honda Accord to a different parking space. She did, but when the daughter returned she found her car in the spot she left it. The Accord Thorpe had moved belonged to someone else.

The car that was moved belonged to Emily Hickert, who was brunching with friends at the time of the “theft.” Hickert filed a police report and even found surveillance footage of what she assumed to be a professional car thief taking her car.

“In less than 40 seconds she gets in the car and goes,” she said.

The story ends well, as Thorpe’s daughter posted fliers all over Brooklyn looking for the Accord’s owner. Hickert was eventually reunited with her Honda, which had been towed after sitting parked on the street.

As mentioned earlier, some cars from that era have interchangeable keys. When two cars with matching keys are in proximity, well, confusion ensues. That’s not a problem with modern cars, but with so many older vehicles still out there, I wonder:

Have you ever accidentally stolen a car, or at least gotten into the wrong one? 


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