Image by Osbornb via Flickr
Yesterday was a wild, and crazy ride. I feel compelled, both for historical accuracy but also as a form of therapy, to put it all down somewhere. Since in many ways there are some real props and respect due - I figured this is the best place to do it.
I've been booked for weeks to speak at MIPCOM on a panel organized by the amazing Ferhan Cook. Though I'm not spending much time on TV/Film at the moment, I still am keenly interesting in the branded entertainment side of things, and the panel was on Apps - which I'm cooking up an entrepreneurial venture around. This is publicly available information on the web, as well as on Tripit which details my flight plans (originally to leave Tuesday night).(now made private)
Image via CrunchBase
I was approached by Jason Calcanis to host a last minute dinner for him and some folks from Open Angel Forum, which I'm getting involved in so I changed my plans, but no one by me and my assistant would have known that. This meant that I was now being picked up at 4:15am by EcoIgo to deliver me to Gatwick for the early flight to Nice, France.
At 3:41pm 2 or more likely 3 men broke into the front door of my house. They damaged the door and were all wearing gloves (so sayeth the police). They rummaged through my wife's computer bag (by the door) grabbed the keys to the TESLA and at least one of them climbed in and drove away, after 1st unplugging the car from the power and stowing the cable in the trunk. The other two men continued to ransack the entry-way to the house - likely looking for the second set of keys which were still in the pocket of my dirty jeans on the floor of the bedroom where I, my wife and my oldest daughter had been sleeping restlessly due to the latter's continued efforts to gain such position.
My wife kicked me waking me up saying to me, in a voice every husband has heard - "I think there's someone in the house" and I as usual got up, expecting there would be noone, but figured it was almost time to get up anyways I'd make a latte before taking a shower. I moved to the top of the stairs where I spotted that the door to my house was WIDE OPEN - with RAIN POURING down outside and two men, one short and rather stocky (maybe of african decent) and one white and rather tall and both wearing clothing that was strangely familiar (I would soon learn that's because it was my North Face Fleece, Armani raincoat and windproof vest). They were rummaging through my mother (visiting from the USA with her husband) our nanny's and my wife's purses looking for the 2nd key we suspect. I shouted and ran down the stairs to do - God knows what - but with adrenaline pumping to stop them or at least collar one. They looked up and fled into the rain as I started to chase them down the street I realized I was one man wearing cotton pajamas and they were two men well protected and possibly armed. I ceased pursuit.
At this point I thought this was just a simple burglary having not noticed the lack of TESLA in the driveway, but turning and walking back to the house I now saw that my car, the Silver TESLA Roadster - was missing. My wife, now in a robe downstairs was already on the phone to the police - who arrived before I could pull my jeans and t-shirt having been in the neighborhood. To their credit Camden police had a large number of units activated and we saw 3-4 police cars wizzing by looking for the car almost immediately.
A quick note on my car, for those who have forgotten;
My wife and I own a Tesla Roadster
We bought this car after meeting the Tesla folks during our producing of the film Who Killed the Electric Car?
Also pretty well known is that mine was the first TESLA in the UK; and that it's actually one of the prototype models, designed and built in the US and modified for a european specification.
So they had my car, and I was FREAKED. We began calling people, first we called the TESLA service manager (remember it's now 4:00am in the morning - who answered on the 2nd ring) and then called the banks, credit card companies and changed the login details on passwords for everything that might be auto-filled on Tavin's computer. We also began attempting to activate our TRACKER. This proved to be somewhat difficult at 1st due to some bureaucratic and other issues with our car, and the way the tracker had been installed. As we were chasing these (and those critical seconds ticking) we remembered something.
Image by Belfegore via Flickr
When we first got the car we put it intåo a luxury car club called E-Curie25 run by my friend Chirag. In exchange for having the car they paid the insurance (which for the 1st year was outrageous) and we would be paid for whenever people took our car out. To me there was a second benefit of being able to borrow some of their amazing super-cars (maserati's, Ferrari's, etc.) which was a lot of fun. Though we had taken the car out of the club since we loved it so much we were not making enough availability for them, they had placed a SECOND tracking device (TRACKER) insider the car as well - we called/paged/phoned everyone we could think of at E-curie to see if they could activate their tracker.
Then I decided to tweet about the theft. Realizing that if someone was driving the car - that a lot of people were about to get in their cars and go to work. Word might get around and given the cars uniqueness we'd likely have a whole bunch more assistance by getting word out as best we could. the first 48 hours in a car theft are critical as that's the average time it takes to get the car across town to someplace to strip or pack a car onto a ship/train/truck.
Image by lovelypetal via Flickr
@richardtitus: Urgent! House was robbed, silver Tesla au5 8ajx stolen! If seen call the police!”
I was really impressed by the support and help I got from the community re-tweeting this and more by the number of people who reached out personally with words of support and condolence to my family and I for this terrible experience.
I have to say that Tesla's service department were really amazing helpful and supportive they called frequently to check in and was chasing all available avenues to both find the car but also to alert anyone who had a new enquiry for parts or service, that the car was missing. Word spread throughout the morning to dealerships and employees. Apparently mine was the 1st TESLA to ever be stolen !! The police remained a constant presence all a.m. also helpfully asking questions and looking around the neighborhood. The general consensus was that the car was stolen to order and was likely on a boat someplace now. We, however held out hope. Then a call from the lovely friends at E-CURIE25; they had re-activated their tracker and located a signal. It was coming from a council estate parking lot at the edge of High-gate & Haringuey. We notified the police and then decided to race up there ourselves and see what was there. The parking lot was shielded from the air by trees (in fact most of the path from my house to there was shielded by trees and easy to reach on back roads) and it was at the edge of the zone you could travel on without being seen by CCTV.
We arrived to find - OUR CAR! Dirty, scratched and parked under a tree.
I learned this is standard behavior to dump the car someplace hidden for a day or two or three and see if Police or anyone else shows up. This is specifically done to identify whether there is a TRACKER installed in the vehicle. What's great about trackers (and we have several now) is that they are hidden throughout the car and hard to find, much less remove, without destroying the car. We now have now added one that works globally - which means if it's stolen again, even if on a transport we'll find it. When dumped like in this instance - the car is usually watched 24 hours a day, so we and the police remained with the vehicle, until the special crimes unit could have the car collected and taken to a police lab. The car is currently undergoing, what I imagine is something akin to an episode of CSI - which I hope will catch the thieves - when I fantasize I'll be allowed 5 minutes in a holding cell with them by a friendly officer.. ok that's not likely.
But as it stands, there's a likely chance they'll catch these guys. I've also decided to install some more safety equipment in the car - and the house including a digital CCTV system (any suggestions ??) which will publish on the web. We've replaced all the locks and added deadbolts to the doors. The thing about incidents like this is they make you feel much less safe. All I could think about all a.m. was "what if this had happened and I'd been in France? What if they couldn't find the keys, would they have come up?" and "Thank God my kids stayed asleep"
I also began thinking about social media and transparency and life-publishing. I mean, its unlikely a speaking engagement could be hidden and still be useful, but things like foursquare, facebook and the ridiculous insistence in the UK that people have on using your home address for bills, etc (unlike in the USA where many people use Mail Boxes Etc.). People say that the UK and EU are more privacy aware than the US, yet my bank card here has my Sort-code and account number on it - things that my US cards would never dream of!
I some folks tweeted things like the following:
Image via Wikipedia
@BenedictEvans: @richardtitus a pioneer as always: 1st UK 4Square burglary AND first to have a Tesla stolen. Hoping nothing more than pride hurt...
Now while I think its unlikely these thieves use foursquare I do think we need to think carefully about what information we put into the social web. Perhaps also altering or installing better controls and active management of just who gets what piece of data. (perhaps even allowing us to know who indeed has accessed it!)
Lastly I began to think about what matters in life. In reality we are really lucky. The family and our children are safe; all they got were some computers, some credit cards, a little cash and my unlucky mom and stepfather's passports. Nothing that can't be got back, slightly newer and via insurance largely painless. I think, on reflection that given this car's unqueness and given the theives obvious level of expertise, there is literally nothing we could have done differently to avoid this, and likely it was much better that getting the car was so easy. They may not have stopped had the keys not been there - and that, frankly scares me more than anything.