Local Crime, News

Owner catches car thief in the act in the Lynn MBTA garage

Fredy Hincapie behind the wheel of his 1994 Jeep Cherokee. He caught someone breaking into it while it was parked in the MBTA garage. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Fredy Hincapie, a 23-year-old Lynn resident, stopped a man from stealing his car from the MBTA garage last month.

Hincapie was walking back to the downtown garage from work on July 12 shortly after 6 p.m., and was startled to see a man sitting in the driver’s seat of his 1994 Jeep Cherokee Country.

He was talking on the phone with his mother and wasn’t paying too much attention, until he walked up to the driver’s side door and saw a man with tools and a knife trying to hotwire the car.

Hincapie said the man had the cables open and had dismantled the steering column.

“When I show up to my door, the driver’s side door, I see someone in there,” Hincapie said. “My first thought is wait, this is not my car (and then) oh, this is my car. So, basically said, whoa, what’s going on? I opened the door and told the guy to get out of my car. I’m not going to say anything. Just get out.”

At that point, Hincapie said the man told him not to worry, that he wasn’t going to hurt him, but kept on looking back at him as he was walking toward the stairs. At one point, he said the man shouted “your car is totaled by the way. Insurance isn’t going to cover it.”

Hincapie said he wasn’t scared when he saw the man in his car, although he did put his hands up and back away a bit as a precaution. Instead, he said he felt like he was in shock because he thought his car should be safe in the garage.

His mentality, he said, was just to get the man out of the car, and then he could take care of the rest of the problem.

After the suspect left, Hincapie said he tried to start the Jeep, but the ignition wasn’t working. The man had broken it and he couldn’t open the car door with his key because that was broken as well with the break-in.

Hincapie said police told him the suspect was probably looking to take apart the car and sell the parts, which were all original. He said authorities told him that the majority of thieves would rather steal old cars than newer ones for that reason.

Unfortunately, Hincapie said police weren’t much help. First, he called Lynn Police, who directed him to call the MBTA Transit Police. He said it took the Transit Police half an hour to arrive, with officers doing a report on the incident.

Hincapie said the man was Caucasian with a buzz cut. He was about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches and thin, weighing about 150 pounds.

From there, Hincapie said he waited another 40 minutes for Somerville Police to arrive, but the officer didn’t have a camera to take pictures, so he ended up taking pictures of the car damage himself.

“That was kind of it,” Hincapie said. “I really didn’t know what to do after.”

Hincapie was given a number to call if he saw the guy again, and then called AAA to take his Jeep home.

But he was saddled with the cost of getting his car fixed. He spent two weeks trying to find the correct type of steering wheel for his Jeep, unsuccessfully looking at junk yards before finally finding it on eBay.

Between purchasing a $250 steering wheel and then getting the vehicle fixed in the shop, he was left without a car for two weeks, along with a $500 bill, which he doesn’t think he should have had to pay. He just got his car back on Saturday.

“I’m paying money to park my car at the garage,” Hincapie said. “I should feel like my car should be safe.”

Hincapie is thinking of suing the MBTA because he believes there should be some liability on their end and there should be efforts taken to improve safety in the building. He said responding officers told him there are no security cameras in the MBTA garage and the only type of monitoring that goes on is a man who walks around checking for tickets.

“That’s it,” he said. “The place was empty. It was just me and the guy. Anything could happen there.”

From the looks of things, Hincapie said he got there just in time. If he had arrived a little bit later, the man would have already been gone with his car. If he arrived and found his car gone, he would have been baffled, since there are no cameras so there would be no evidence.

Hincapie usually doesn’t park in the garage to avoid the $4 cost, and the incident does make him wary about having to park there again, which will become a necessity for him in the winter after snowfall.

In addition, he said planned downtown developments will mean more people will have to park in the garage and the MBTA or city should be responsible for their safety.

“It worries me for others too that are coming into Lynn, maybe not just the matter of (breaking into the) car. It’s just the matter of safety in general,” Hincapie said. “The building’s not monitored. Anybody can walk in. My goal is just basically to get the city aware of the safety (issue).”

Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment.

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