Move over NASCAR pit crews, there’s a new team pulling wheels off of cars and they’re doing it in record time across southern Queens neighborhoods.
While auto theft is on the decline across the city, there has been a new wave of thefts targeting cars that is taking place in and around Howard Beach. But this time, thieves take the wheels and leave the cars behind.
“Old school crime on the rise,” wrote one resident on the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol Facebook page.
“Nothing new in Lindenwood,” wrote another.
The 106th Precinct sent out fliers warning residents and car owners about the thefts, identifying the types of cars being targeted and providing pointers on how to guard against the theft of wheels and tires.
“It costs close to $3,000 to replace those rims and tires,” said Detective Kenny Zorn from the 106th Precinct. “We’re out there preaching crime prevention and have unmarked and marked cars patrolling the areas more frequently.”
The 106th Precinct has also been out in Lindenwood passing out the fliers to residents warning of the crime. They say Lindenwood is one of the easiest areas to hit for thieves because of the multi-family houses.
In the last 28-day period, Zorn said there have been four reported tire removals in cars in the Lindenwood area alone.
The civilian patrol reported two cars stripped of their wheels in the last two weeks, and comments on some of the pictures posted show the crime is happening at a higher rate throughout the neighborhood.
“This has to be a group of people working together because they get these tires off in seconds,” said Joe Thompson, president of the patrol. “It’s been going on for a long time, but now it seems to be happening almost every night.”
Jacking up a car, putting it on bricks and pulling the tires off can occur in seconds with experienced thieves.
Thompson said that while he was on patrol he got a call from a resident of Ozone Park about four males in the process of taking tires off a car. He notified 911 immediately and drove over to the scene. Arriving no more than six minutes later, Thompson said the thieves were already gone and observed the car on bricks and tilted forward.
On the flier, the police warn that late model Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas and Mercedes are being targeted for their rims. They recommend that car owners use wheel locks, motion sensor lights, or an alarm with a mercury tilt switch to make their cars harder targets.
“It’s scary,” he said. “All these cars are brand-new, and it’s terrible for these residents. It affects their insurance and just makes things more difficult for them.”
Thompson said that his patrol has been watching for suspicious cars around the neighborhood and has been documenting license plates for the police. He said he has no real leads on who these thieves might be, but he believes they circle the area and pick out which cars they want to hit before they strike.
“We get calls from people every night, telling us of suspicious cars around the neighborhood or ones parked in front of their houses for a long period of time,” he said. “We’ve been collecting the information and are talking to the police to hopefully stop these criminals.
Anyone with information about this crime is urged to call CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-577-TIPS. Zorn also said if anyone sees the crime going on to call 911 immediately. If you want more information on how to prevent the crime, call the 106th Precinct’s crime prevention number at 718-845-2223.