Volkswagen acknowledged Friday that a representative of its roadside assistance program made a “serious breach” after declining to provide police with the GPS location of a car carrying an abducted toddler.
Lake County sheriff’s detectives trying to locate the car Thursday after the child’s mother had been carjacked, and then run over with her own vehicle, were told by Volkswagen’s Car-Net service that the company would not provide the car’s location until Car-Net was paid a $150 fee to reactivate the service, sheriff’s office Deputy Chief Chris Covelli said.
The child was located unhurt a short time later, Covelli said. But the delay with Car-Net cost police critical time in their investigation of the ongoing abduction, he said.
Volkswagen released a statement Friday saying that the Car-Net representative had not followed guidelines.
“Volkswagen has a procedure in place with a third-party provider for Car-Net Support Services involving emergency requests from law enforcement. They have executed this process successfully in previous incidents,” VW spokesman Mark Gillies said in an email Friday.
“Unfortunately, in this instance, there was a serious breach of the process,” he said. “We are addressing the situation with the parties involved.”
The email did not address why the mistake happened.
The sheriff’s office said the victim, 34, and her two children had arrived at her residence in the 16000 block of Illinois Route 137 near Libertyville around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. She brought one of her children into her house, and then returned for her 2-year-old son.
As she came back outside, a BMW sedan pulled into her driveway, a man exited the passenger side and attempted to enter the woman’s 2021 VW Atlas SUV. She and the man struggled before he battered her, and knocked her to the ground.
“There was no regard for her or her child, even though she was screaming that her child was in the car,” Covelli said.
The man drove off in the Atlas, running over the woman in the process. Although she suffered broken extremities, she was able to call 911, authorities said, and relay information about the stolen vehicle.
A sheriff’s detective, knowing that the vehicle is equipped with the Car-Net system, contacted the company for emergency location assistance, but was told that Car-Net could not help until someone paid $150 to reactivate the lapsed account, Covelli said.
About 16 minutes after police arrived at the victim’s house, the BMW and the stolen car drove into a parking lot at a business in the 2200 block of Lakeside Drive in Waukegan, where the child was turned out of the SUV.
Fortunately, a woman inside the business witnessed what happened and quickly retrieved the child and kept him safe until police arrived, Covelli said. Around the same time, a relative of the woman was authorizing payment to Car-Net to reactivate the account.
The delay — “16 minutes of hell,” Covelli said — rendered the company’s information “worthless” in finding the child.
The mother was scheduled to undergo a medical procedure Friday for broken bones, and was in stable condition, officials said.
“She sustained very serious injuries, and was able to do a great job of articulating to dispatchers what had happened, and what they needed to know,” Covelli said.
Police recovered the stolen car in a parking lot near Illinois Route 43 and Casimir Pulaski Drive in Waukegan. Police are looking for the BMW used by the carjackers. It is a white 2000s model with a black bumper and a loud exhaust, and was reported stolen this week from a Waukegan car dealership.