Auto Theft: A preventable crime with potentially dangerous consequences.

Stealing a car might not seem like a big deal, until it happens to you. Losing a car to a thief could mean not having a set of wheels to get you to your job, dropping the kids off at school, or making a trip to the grocery store. It’ll also mean a huge headache as you work with your insurance company, and it’ll likely cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars once all is said and done.

Most criminals that steal and drive stolen cars no longer do so to “joyride.” Instead, criminals often use stolen cars to commit other crimes to include carjackings, burglaries, theft and fraud, robberies, and gang-related shootings. Increasingly, offenders are juveniles and drive these cars recklessly, putting themselves and others at high risk of injury or death.

Did You Know?

FACT: 6 out of 10 cars are stolen with the keys inside.

REMEMBER: Don’t leave your car running with the key in the ignition! Leaving your car running is a violation of St. Paul City Ordinance 157.07 and you could be ticketed.

PARK IT!        LOCK IT!        POCKET!

Before Reporting a Stolen Vehicle:

  • Was the vehicle stolen in the City of Saint Paul? If not, call the police department of the city where it was located when taken.
  • If the vehicle was in Saint Paul, call the Impound Lot at 651-292-6005 or go to the police impound lot web page,  to see if your car is there. Sometimes vehicles thought to be stolen are, in fact, towed due to parking violations.
  • Have you missed one or more car payments? If you suspect your vehicle may have been repossessed, call your finance company.
  • Do you have a way of tracking your stolen vehicle, either through a paid service (e.g., OnStar) or other means (e.g., Air Tag, GPS)? If so, have that information available at the time you make the report.
  • Are there things about your car that make it stand out? Does it have bumper stickers? Busted headlight? Funky paint color? Other damage? Make sure to mention any characteristics that would make your car more recognizable to police.

Breach of Trust

“I let someone use my car and they haven’t returned it!”:

This is referred to as a Breach of Trust. Breach of Trust is a generic term used for documenting the origination date of a civil dispute in which a vehicle is taken under circumstances other than auto theft. After a period of 30 days from the date the vehicle weas taken as part of a Breach of Trust, it may be determined to be a Stolen Vehicle.

Examples of situations which are considered a Breach of Trust:

  • A vehicle is loaned to another person with permission of the owner for a certain length of time, and the vehicle is not returned as promised.
  • An auto dealer lends a vehicle out for a test drive, and the vehicle is not returned in the period that was agreed upon.
  • A rental car agency rents a vehicle out, and the renter does not return the vehicle within the contracted time.
  • A business setting where an employee has the vehicle in the field and does not return it to the business.
  • A vehicle is missing, and the person suspected of having the vehicle was allowed to use the vehicle in the past, however they did not have permission for the current use of the vehicle.

Complete an Online Report to file a Breach of Trust, or call 651-291-1111. Once reported, only Saint Paul police officers will have knowledge of the Breach of Trust involving your vehicle (The vehicle plates and VIN will be entered into a local system, but not the national system). Should your vehicle be stopped, it may be towed and you, as the owner, are responsible for all related expenses.

Officers stopping vehicles reported as a Breach of Trust will positively identify, but not arrest, the driver and other occupants unless there are other reasons to make an arrest. Officers will attempt to notify the owner to pick up the vehicle, but if they are unable to contact the owner, they will have the vehicle towed to the St. Paul Impound Lot to be held for the owner. All fees will be paid by the owner.

If the vehicle is not returned within thirty (30) days of the date that the Breach of Trust was reported to police (NOT the date it was taken), then the situation can be pursued as an Auto Theft.  As a victim of a Breach of Trust, you do not need to complete another report after 30 days, but you will need to contact us at 651-291-1111 in reference to your case number and let us know that the vehicle has not been returned.  At that point, investigators will make a determination on how to proceed. 

Reporting a Stolen Vehicle:

  • If an auto theft is in progress, call 911.
  • If not an emergency, call 651-291-1111 to report a stolen vehicle.
  • Only the registered owner may report a stolen vehicle.
  • You must have the license plate number or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • Don’t know the license plate or VIN? Try looking on your latest insurance statement or the Certificate of Title.
  • When you call to report a stolen car, the dispatcher will ask for:
    • The vehicle ownership and identification information;
    • A description of what happened; and
    • A description of the vehicle. The more details you can provide (stickers, unique damage, aftermarket parts, colors, etc.) the better.
  • The dispatcher will query the current status of the car in various databases and may be able to determine at that time if your car was towed or repossessed, rather than stolen. They will provide you with the information.
  • A police officer will call or respond to your location to take a report of a stolen vehicle.
  • Report the loss to your insurance company and give them the complaint number (CN).

Your Car Was Stolen and You Reported It. What Happens Now?

  • After meeting with you and verifying the car was stolen, the police officer will contact the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center Data Channel. Your vehicle’s information and status as a stolen vehicle will be entered into a nation-wide database (called NCIC) available to all police officers on patrol. Many, but not all, stolen cars are recovered in just a few days.
  • The officer’s report will be forwarded to the Auto Theft Unit. An Auto Theft Unit investigator will review the report for leads and evidence that can be processed that might lead to the vehicle’s recovery and/or arrest of person(s) responsible.
  • If there are a lack of solvability factors that would lead to a successful prosecution, the case will be held pending the car’s recovery or other evidence or information that will lead to the car’s recovery. Remember, every police officer nation-wide has the information at their fingertips about your stolen car and are looking for it.
  • The investigator will be especially looking towards the recovery of your car as that development can reveal further information and evidence that may lead to the successful identification and prosecution of the offender.
  • Upon recovery of your car, the investigator will review the case for additional evidence or other information that will assist in the investigation. Their goal is to identify the offender and identify and secure evidence of the crime.
  • If the elements are sufficient, the case will be presented for prosecution. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office will either issue a summons (requesting the suspect to appear in court) or a warrant for the suspect’s arrest, depending on the circumstances of the case.
  • You should have already contacted your insurance company. They will work with you on the claim and other issues related to the disappearance of your car.
  • If your car was stolen from a location in Saint Paul, the Saint Paul Police Department will investigate your case unless the agency that recovers your car wishes to prosecute in that jurisdiction.
  • If your car was stolen in another jurisdiction and recovered in Saint Paul, the case will remain with that jurisdiction unless there are other factors that lead SPPD investigators to request to retain the case.

You Recovered Your Own Car:

  • If you find and recover your own stolen vehicle, it is very important that you notify the police department right away. If possible, do not touch the exterior or interior of your car until a police officer can respond and determine if there is any evidence to recover. You will need to meet with an officer to cancel the stolen vehicle report before driving it. The risks of driving a vehicle that is a reported stolen, could put yourself and others in danger if police detect the vehicle and attempt to stop your car. Call 651-291-1111 to report you found your stolen vehicle.

How Will I Know When My Car is Recovered?

  • No matter where your car is found the Saint Paul Police Department is notified of its recovery.
  • The vehicle’s status is updated in the nation-wide database to reflect that it is no longer a stolen vehicle.
  • You may be contacted at the time the vehicle is recovered and the vehicle turned directly over to you. This is at the officer’s discretion based upon call load, difficulty of communication, or other factors. Usually, an attempt is made by phone to contact the owner upon recovery.
  • If that is not possible, the vehicle may be towed to the impound lot for safekeeping until you are notified, and the car can be released to its rightful owner. You must prove that you have insurance prior to picking up the car.
  • The impound lot is required to send notice by certified mail to the registered owner of a motor vehicle at the address on the registration that the car has been impounded.
  • If there have been attempts to contact the owner and those attempts go unanswered and the vehicle unclaimed, it could end up going to auction. Make sure you give multiple methods of accurate contact information when making a stolen vehicle report.
  • Once your case is closed, you have the right to the report if you are the registered owner. A report can be requested from the SPPD Records Unit.

What About the Impound Fees?

Impound fees are calculated by the Saint Paul Impound Lot. Victims of stolen cars may seek reimbursement of their towing and storage fees through their insurance company if the policy coverage is adequate.

More information on car theft and other crime can be found at

Want to Learn More About Statewide Auto Theft and Prevention?

Visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce Auto Theft Prevention website.

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Last Edited: March 8, 2023