Avoid this guy: He's got the hands of a surgeon and a vacant lot where his heart's supposed to be.
Also, he's got the ability to break into a car in minutes, and drive it away before anybody knows it.
"Any car?" he is asked.
"Any car," he says flatly.
He says this shortly after a spontaneous demonstration: A locked Pontiac station wagon, a screwdriver, a hook at the end of a wire clothes hanger. He keeps glancing over his shoulder, as though checking for cops, even though the demonstration's a favor. The glances are simply a reflex, a nervous twitch.
Couple of minutes, he's got the car opened and ready to drive away.
"Simple," he says nonchalantly.
"What would be difficult?"
"The truth?" he says. "Nothing."
He says he's stolen Rolls-Royces, Mercedes-Benzes, once stole a sports car and sold it for $60,000. Says he's stolen state police cars. Says he's been stealing cars for three years and makes six figures a year before taxes -- except, of course, he pays no taxes.
Says he's stolen about 300 cars, which he generally drives out of town and sells to people who have ordered them by make and model, and says he's sold them to car dealers out of town "who take care of the paperwork."
Says he's stolen cars in rich neighborhoods and poor, cars with alarms on them, cars allegedly impossible to steal because of The Club locked onto the steering wheel.
"The Club," he sneers. "I've removed The Club with a hacksaw. I've driven cars with The Club still in place. The Club is for show."
Here's something else to show: In the first six months of this year, there were 4,450 auto thefts in the city and 2,433 in Baltimore County.
And that is considered encouraging. In the first six months of 1992, for comparison, there were 6,214 auto thefts in the city and 2,774 in the county, so the numbers are down.
"Amateurs," the professional says, and police concur. They estimate upward of 80 percent of all car thefts are young men doing what used to be called "joy riding."
"Except," says a county policeman, "we don't call them joy rides any more. They're called Taken for Temporary Use. People who get their cars back all bashed up don't like to hear the phrase 'joy ride.' Most of the time, it's kids. For them, things like The Club and alarms are useful" and may contribute to the current slack in thefts.
For the professional, there is no slack. He worked as a mechanic for a while, as a truck driver a while longer, but he was doing a little free-lance car theft all along, ever since he graduated from Southern High School and hooked up with a renegade motorcycle club which stole cars in lieu of charging membership dues.
"You take the serial plates out, go to junkyards and get the same car with the right make and year," he says. "You take out that plate and put it in the one you swiped. That way, anybody runs the serial numbers, it doesn't come back on the hot sheet."
He was sent to prison once, says he refined his skills there by learning from inmates who had their own stealing expertise. "You just go out scouting at night," he says. "You might get an order for a specific make, but if you don't, you just look for something expensive. It's like going to a grocery store. You going for steak, or for fat? You take something cheap, you get nothing for it. You want the top of the line."
There's a flatness to his voice as he explains mechanical skills -- how to beat an alarm system, how to cut various wires, how to hot-wire an ignition -- the vocal inflections of a technician for whom morality simply isn't a part of the equation.
"Why are you explaining all of this?" he is asked.
"You wanted to know," he explains.
He says he owns two luxury cars and does nothing to protect them.
"Waste of time," he says. "If somebody wants 'em bad enough, they can steal 'em."
But he says his house -- a $300,000 house in Anne Arundel County, he says -- has surveillance cameras all around. He doesn't drive into town very often, he says, since he parked his car downtown and police towed it to an impounding lot.
"Expired tags. I had to pay for towing, and for keeping my car on the lot."
Maybe he could have saved money by simply swiping the car back.