DURHAM (WTVD) -- Fifteen thousand vehicles are stolen every year in North Carolina. Auto theft costs all insured car owners in the form of higher insurance premiums.
However, the I-Team discovered a flaw in a computer system that's supposed to put the brakes on the problem and recover stolen cars.
The I-Team was on the scene minutes after Tikoya Maybrey had the scare of her life. She was grabbing food at a McDonald's in Durham when she was carjacked. A woman with a gun demanded Maybrey get out of the car. The woman then sped-off with Maybrey's aunt's Chevy Cavalier.
"It's got to be terrifying," said Fred Sadtler, special agent for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. "Carjacking is like an armed robbery. A lot of that is driven by drug usage."
Twenty-four hours later and 30 miles away, surveillance video shows the same woman in her twenties at the Raleigh Scrap Metal Recycling Yard. She approached Paula Figueroa who buys vehicles for cash.
The woman told Figueroa her car was having problems and she wanted to sell it for scrap.
"She just didn't want to put any money into it, and I said OK go ahead and bring it in," Figueroa remembered.
The woman came back 30 minutes later with the Chevy Cavalier and parked it on a scale to be weighed for metal.
"After that I asked her for the title or anything with the VIN number. She said I don't have anything," Figueroa said.
Figueroa checked to see if the vehicle was stolen. She scanned the VIN and entered it into a DMV computer system hooked up to the National Crime Information Center. But, it didn't show the Chevy was stolen.
Fortunately, Raleigh Scrap Metal Recycling also uses a national computer system called Auto Data Direct and the Chevy got a hit.
"What happened was the federal came up as stolen and the state came up as clear," explained Greg Brown, with the Raleigh Scrap Metal Recycling yard.
Figueroa then told the woman to wait inside the salvage yard so she could call her manager.
"Finally when she said she was going to take the car and go off to one of my competitors, my person told her, "No, you can't. There seems to be a problem. The car has been reported stolen,'" Brown said.
With those words, the woman walked off the lot. She left the car and her driver's license behind and took-off in a waiting SUV.
A few weeks later, Raleigh police arrested 22-year-old Shynece Tucker charging her with vehicle theft and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
She was later indicted on those charges and is being held at the Durham County Jail. Her bond is posted at $100,000.
"People that are taking cars into these salvage yards to sell for scraps are doing it on a frequent basis," explained Sadtler.
He says cars stolen in the Triangle end up getting sold overseas or to chop shops.
"It's money. That's what it's all about, and its big money."
The I-Team caught up with the owner of the Chevy Cavalier, Maybrey's aunt, Candace Tuck, when she was reunited with her car for the first time since the carjacking.
"I'm glad it's found, but I don't like the condition of it," Candace Tuck said.
She thanked the people at the salvage yard for finding her car before it wound up inside the crusher.
Even if your car isn't stolen, car theft is still hitting you in the wallet.
"We all pay for any type of claim that is made within the insurance industry. We are all affected by it," Sadtler said.
The I-Team pressed the DMV for answers about why the state's computer system didn't identify the car as being stolen, but the agency declined to do an interview with the I-Team.
Instead, it sent a statement saying: "In the first year the scrap vehicle reporting system has been in operation, it has recovered more than 300 stolen vehicles."
That's 50 percent of stolen cars that wound-up at a scrap yard.
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I-Team: Auto theft costing North Carolina residents