There is an underground industry in Chicago known as the “Midnight Auto.” Those working and trafficking in this part of the auto industry, deal with hot cars and auto parts. In other words, “chop-shops.” Modern automobiles are worth far more when harvested for parts than as a working car. Thieves specialize; there are guys who only steal air-bags, others only batteries or distributor caps or tires. There are even kids who only grab hood ornaments. It is a varied set of options for the judicious thief–the American automobile.
The auto industry has devised “anti -theft” devices for years and thieves have evolved and changed with them. One used to be able to grab large American cars with a slim-jim, a small screw-driver, vice-grips and a tap-hammer. Easy-peasy.
Now, even with all of the computerized shit, a jimmy still gets you into the driver’s side door and there are much more sophisticated ignition devices, but one must be something of a hacker. Deterrents like “Lo-jack?” Kid stuff. Break the aerial–no more Lo-jack. “The Club,” you can cut it in half with a small torch, plus have the added bonus of pummeling the shit out of the rightful owner of the car with it, if they catch you.
The long and short of it is, if somebody wants your car, they can take it.
Car alarms only make people hate you. When they go off, do you really think your fellow man gives a fuck that your car is being stolen? Fuck no! In fact, after five minutes of your car alarm, they’re pulling for the guy who is jacking your car.
When I was a young man, all of the people I knew in this business sold their hot parts on Maxwell Street. It was quick and anonymous and money and goods changed hands without so much as a receipt or too much eye-contact. Now that Maxwell Street is gone, a lot of the trade has moved over to the hundreds of used-car lots on Western Avenue.
I love Western. It used to be a veritable forest of neon car lot signs with the lines of multi-colored triangular flags covering the whole lot. As a kid I thought they were palaces. Western Avenue once boasted the longest streetcar line in the world; the Green Hornet street-cars went the way of all things in the ’50s.
Western is still the place to buy a used car in Chicago. It’s a huge business here and competition is cutthroat. So is the car parts trade. Chicago is a paradise for parts thieves. Car lots, particularly the relatively unpoliced, huge, shopping mall lots, are like a fucking smorgasbord, especially if you have a Toyota or Honda or even better, a Prius, with all of those lovely universal parts. The Midnight Auto thanks you!
This piece is called, The Devil and Western Avenue. One of my Superheroes who just happens to do nasty stuff..