VW wouldn't help locate car with abducted child because GPS subscription expired

VW wouldn't help locate car with abducted child because GPS subscription expired
Feb 2023

A sheriff's office in Illinois said it was initially thwarted from tracking a stolen car with a 2-year-old boy inside when Volkswagen's Car-Net service refused to provide access to the tracking system because the car's subscription had expired.

"While searching for the stolen vehicle and endangered child, sheriff's detectives immediately called Volkswagen Car-Net, in an attempt to track the vehicle," the Lake County sheriff's office said in a statement posted on Facebook about the incident on February 23. "Unfortunately, there was a delay, as Volkswagen Car-Net would not track the vehicle with the abducted child until they received payment to reactivate the tracking device in the stolen Volkswagen."

Volkswagen Car-Net lets owners track and control their vehicles remotely. According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, "the Car-Net trial period had ended, and a representative wanted $150 to restart the service and locate the SUV." The article continued:

The detective pleaded, explaining the "extremely exigent circumstance," but the representative didn't budge, saying it was company policy, sheriff's office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said Friday.

"The detective had to work out getting a credit card number and then call the representative back to pay the $150 and at that time the representative provided the GPS location of the vehicle," Covelli said.

By the time officers say they paid the $150 and got the location of the vehicle, it had already been located by other means. "About 30 minutes had passed, and 'we had already located the 2-year-old child and located the vehicle before they even provided us the information, so it was at that point worthless,' Covelli said," the Sun-Times wrote.

Volkswagen admits "serious breach"

Volkswagen said there was a "serious breach" of its process for working with law enforcement in the Lake County incident. The company uses a third-party vendor to provide the Car-Net service.

"Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net Support Services involving emergency requests from law enforcement. They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents. Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process. We are addressing the situation with the parties involved," the company said in a statement provided to Ars and other media outlets.

The car with a toddler inside was stolen just after his mother returned to their home in Libertyville in her 2021 Volkswagen Atlas. The 34-year-old woman "pulled into her driveway and brought one of her children inside. She came back to her car to retrieve her other child, her 2-year-old son, when a white BMW... pulled into her driveway, behind her car," the sheriff's office statement said.

A man wearing a mask got out of the BMW "and struggled to get into the victim's Volkswagen, as she tried to keep her 2-year-old son safe," the sheriff's office said. "The offender battered the woman, knocking her to the ground. He then stole her car with the child inside. He and the driver of the BMW fled from the scene."

"One of the drivers ran her over as they fled, causing serious injuries to her extremities. The victim was still able to call 911 and sheriff's deputies immediately responded," the statement continued. The sheriff's office also said the BMW "was stolen in the past week from a car dealership in Waukegan."

Child rescued, mother remained hospitalized

Shortly after the Volkswagen was stolen with the child inside, "a person working at a business in the 2200 block of Lakeside Drive, Waukegan, called 911 to report they just saw two vehicles enter the parking lot, and the driver of one of the cars abandoned a small child," the sheriff's office said. The perpetrators fled, and the person who called 911 "rescued the child from the parking lot" before the boy could wander onto the busy roadway.

The woman's stolen vehicle was also found. "Sheriff's deputies located the stolen Volkswagen in a parking lot near Casmir Pulaski and Route 43. The vehicle will be thoroughly processed for trace evidence," the statement said.

The woman went to a hospital "and was in serious, but stable condition," the sheriff's office said on Thursday. Officers said they were still looking for the stolen BMW and asked the public to reach out if they see the car or have any information about the incident.

When contacted by Ars today, Covelli said the sheriff's office is still searching for the BMW and believes the car is still in the area. "The woman had some medical procedures on Saturday and she continues to improve. She remains hospitalized as of yesterday," Covelli said this morning.