Cars Being Lost to Mexico: How to Get Law Enforcement on Your Side

TIADA recently held a meeting with dealers, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), and numerous law enforcement departments to discuss an issue that dealers in the Rio Grande Valley are facing: customers purchasing vehicles and taking them to Mexico. Dealers there have people claiming to be legitimate customers who purchase a vehicle, make two payments to get their metal tags, and then take the car to Mexico without paying any more for the vehicle. The meeting sought to address dealers' concerns about law enforcement handling cars being lost to Mexico.

These bad-faith purchases are sometimes done by the same person at multiple dealerships, and the intent of the person purchasing the vehicle is to not pay for it at the signing of the loan. To TIADA, this is clearly theft and fraud and not a civil matter.

However, several dealers expressed concern that law enforcement frequently states these events are civil matters and has not assisted the dealers when reporting the crime. The issue of law enforcement stating something is a civil matter comes up in other contexts, too, and is not limited to this instance. So, what should a dealer do to communicate with law enforcement when they believe a crime has occurred?

Although there is no uniform way to deal with a mistaken belief that the criminal act you are reporting is not a civil matter, the meeting with law enforcement had a few general takeaways to help dealers when faced with the issue of the officer believing it is a civil matter.

Explain your viewpoint.

Emotions can sometimes run amok when faced with fraud, so it is important to remember to be respectful and courteous to the person you are dealing with, regardless of the situation, even when you disagree with them. Law enforcement suggested you calmly explain why you disagree and provide specific reasons. For example, in the above instance, you may mention that fraud has occurred and say the evidence that shows it was a deliberate default, as that makes it more than a civil matter, or you may mention that you believe they are hindering a secured credit, which is also a crime despite it being rarely prosecuted.

Go up the chain of command.

If you are still unable to get a response from law enforcement regarding the complaint, politely ask them if they will do an incident report. You would like to take the matter up with the higher-ups and then go up the chain of command to plead your case. Alternatively, you may ask them if a supervisor can speak to you at that time.

Help them understand who the victim is.

Too often, law enforcement may not realize that your insurance doesn't cover the loss or think you can easily afford it. By expressing to them what your loss means to you and your family, you may be able to get a more sympathetic officer, and sympathetic officers are more likely to find a way to help you.


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