Family loses car, toddler's wheelchair in rising wave of auto th - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Family loses car, toddler's wheelchair in rising wave of auto thefts

Carson in his stolen wheelchair (Source: Family photo) Carson in his stolen wheelchair (Source: Family photo)
The Richardsons' stolen Passat (Source: Family photo) The Richardsons' stolen Passat (Source: Family photo)
Starr and Brent Richardson (Source: WAVE 3 News) Starr and Brent Richardson (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Starr Richardson feeding Carson (Source: WAVE 3 News) Starr Richardson feeding Carson (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The impact of auto theft in Louisville is reaching far beyond the thousands of missing vehicles on the streets.

Car and SUV thefts were up a staggering 45 percent during the first half of 2016, and everyone could end up paying the price.

"I'm just, like, heartbroken," said Starr Richardson, whose white Passat was stolen from outside her Valley Station home August 22. 

Even more painful is that her child's wheelchair was in the trunk.

"It just hit all at once," Richardson's husband Brent said. "I mean, it's not just the car."

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Eighteen-month-old Carson Richardson has a rare brain condition that has left him with cerebral palsy, confined to an extremely specialized wheelchair that support his head and body.

"If you put him in a regular stroller or a regular high chair he's slumped; therefore it can cause spinal problems," Starr said.

Carson has a bigger wheelchair designed for indoors. The smaller one, worth more than $4,000, is used outside.

"So when we go places - family outings, shopping or whatever - that's the chair we use. It stays in the trunk," Starr said.

That's the one that was stolen along with the Richardsons' car.

Across Louisville Metro, cars and SUVs are being swiped at an alarming rate: 2,326 in the first 6 months of this year. Not only is that number up 45 percent from last year, it's a staggering 84 percent spike from three years ago.

That's not just bad for the victims.

WAVE 3 safety and security expert D'Shawn Johnson said as insurance companies cover the losses, rates across the city are sure to go up.

"And it just takes people a few seconds to be responsible," Johnson said.

While Johnson says some auto theft rings have learned to clone smart keys, carelessness on the part of vehicle owners plays a role in the majority of auto thefts - things like leaving extra keys around the car or even inside it.

Even the Richardsons admit they might have left the doors to their Passat unlocked, allowing thieves to take more than one set of wheels.

"And that's the sad part of this whole thing," Starr said. "He's an innocent little baby."

The Richardsons are hopeful their car insurance will cover the cost of a new wheelchair for Carson, but that's not a guarantee. And even if it is covered, they say it will take months getting the chair replaced, meaning Carson might not have one to go to things like fall festivals and trick-or-treating.

The tips for making sure your car isn't stolen may seem obvious, but experts say you'd be shocked at how many people need to be reminded to:

  • Lock your vehicle.
  • Don't leave keys inside your car or around it.
  • And don't leave valuables inside your vehicle that would tempt a thief to break in.

To view a GoFundMe page set up to help with Carson's medical costs, click here.

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