A Nanaimo woman has her stolen car back, but is none too pleased about finding a used syringe and other items left behind by the people who stole it.
Tiffany Braun awoke May 8 to find vacant boulevard where her 2000 Toyota Corolla should have been parked in front of her home on Poplar Street.
She’d bought the car from a coworker in 2016 and relies on it to commute to and from her job at Nanaimo Airport, which isn’t served by public transit.
The culprits had the car about 12 hours when an RCMP officer spotted it on Bowen Road and arrested them at gunpoint.
Police confiscated drugs found in the vehicle and had the car towed to an ICBC holding yard. ICBC couldn’t return the car right away, since it had to be inspected for damage and the claim approved by an adjuster – a process that took about one week, according to Braun.
“I couldn’t even get a rental for the first week until the adjuster approved the claim,” she said.
Braun’s insurance coverage paid for up to $500 to rent a vehicle while hers was serviced.
Braun said she was told she couldn’t have her car until it was cleaned, but after about three and a half weeks and the car rental allowance had run out, Braun asked for her car back.
It was returned, along with several bags filled with property found in it when police made the arrest. Her belongings, including the car’s owner’s manual, were stuffed in the bags with everything the suspects left behind. Bolt cutters, several cell phones and cell phone accessories, backpacks, clothing, syringes – used and unused – a small propane torch and propane bottles, a case of Kokanee beer and several flashlights, including one flashlight that she said had been stolen from her husband’s van six months earlier.
“There are three or four big, plastic clear bags that say ICBC on them, full of clothes and garbage and all of this stuff and a big, green Rubbermaid bin full of stuff and it’s not like they had gone between the seats and checked to make sure there was anything because that’s where I found one of the needles – down beside my seat – and then there was garbage underneath the seats,” Braun said. “All they’d done with the bio clean is they just spray this substance on it and seal up the car for two days.”
Braun donned a pair of rubber gloves, used tongs to pick up debris in the car, sort her belongings from the other stuff in the bags and wiped the sticky bio clean chemical from the car’s windows and controls. The chore took about five hours.
“Can you imagine? That’s how they gave it back to me … they told me there was all this crap in there. They didn’t seem to care,” she said. “The only thing they did agree to is it’s going for a detail.”
Lindsay Olsen, ICBC senior communications specialist, said in an e-mail that when a stolen vehicle is to be returned to its owner, ICBC hires a licensed biohazard cleaning company – where the services are available in the province – to ensure the vehicle is safe before it is returned. ICBC also returns all safe belongings recovered from vehicles to customers, since it’s not possible to determine which specific possessions belong to them.
“Unfortunately, in this case, a syringe was missed in a side pocket of the vehicle by the bio cleaning company,” Olsen noted.
“The safety of our customers is of the utmost importance to ICBC and we take this matter seriously. Since learning of this error, we have formally apologized to the customer and addressed the mistake with the biohazard cleaning company to ensure this does not happen again for the safety of our customers, employees and business partners.”
Olsen went on to say the recommended and standard process after a vehicle is bio cleaned, is that it’s towed to an auto body shop to be detailed, vacuumed and wiped down further, but in this case the customer chose to retrieve the vehicle before this step was completed and an opportunity to correct the mistake was missed.
“Nevertheless, the work of the bio cleaning company was clearly not carried out to our standards and we again, apologize to the customer for that,” Olsen said.