Volkswagen ‘slowed’ process of tracking down stolen car with child inside

(NewsNation) — Volkswagen drastically slowed down the process of tracking down a stolen car with a child inside last month, a law enforcement officer tells NewsNation.

On Feb. 23 at around 3:35, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois responded to reports of a car hijacking with a 2-year-old child still inside the vehicle in Libertyville.

Investigators say a 34-year-old woman, who is six months pregnant, had just pulled into her driveway and brought one of her children inside her home. She returned to the car to bring her 2-year-old son into the home when a white BMW pulled up behind her car.

A man hopped out of the passenger side of the car and tried getting into her Volkswagen. While fighting and trying to keep her son safe, police say the man knocked her to the ground then stole the car with the child still inside.

As the BMW and Volkswagen took off from the scene, one of the drivers ran the mother over. She managed to call 911, and the search for her child and the car began.

Authorities with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office decided to alert Volkswagen’s Car-Net, which has a stolen car location feature, to see if they could track down the car’s whereabouts and save the 2-year-old.

Christopher Covelli, deputy chief with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said he called the Car-Net emergency number and quickly explained the situation. Per Covelli, the employee on the other end of the line confirmed that the vehicle could be tracked but declined to do it, saying the trial period for the car’s feature had ended.

The detective urged the employee to help, pleading that it was a life-or-death situation. But due to policy, the employee said he could not give the location until a $150 payment for the feature was secured.

Though detectives rushed to find a credit card to pay for the feature, Covelli said the step added nearly 30 minutes to the process.

“This was the most horrifying situation that this victim ever has gone through in her entire life,” Covelli said in an interview with NewsNation Prime’s Natasha Zouves. “The representative, indeed, did say that the car could be tracked. The representative dug a little deeper and determined that the trial period had ended for this feature and was requiring payment so that slowed things down drastically in a situation where seconds truly matter.”

By that point, the sheriffs’ office said authorities in the field had fortunately already found the missing child and the stolen Volkswagen.

Someone working at a local business in Waukegan called 911 to report a sighting of two cars entering their parking lot and dropping off a small child. The caller rescued the child from the parking lot near a busy road.

Volkswagen insists the incident showed a “serious breach” of their process.

In a statement to NBC Chicago, a spokesperson for the company said “Volkswagen takes the safety and security of its customers very seriously.”

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their family,” the statement read. “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.”

Covelli said the company reached out to the sheriff’s office and contacted the family.

“They affirmed to us that they have conditions in place if there’s exigency. Quite honestly there’s probably not a whole lot that’s more exigent than a two-year-old that’s just been abducted,” Covelli said.

Still, Covelli said the company “seemed very sincere in their apology.”

The mother remains hospitalized for her injuries. Covelli said she has a long road to recovery and her children are OK.


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