Foreign Cars Are Targeted Most Often, Experts Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some New Yorkers have been waking up to find the wheels missing from their cars, and owners of foreign models have been the most frequent targets.

As CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner reported, Vincent Rongo and his wife woke to find their car missing two wheels.

“The car was parked by the pole,” Rongo said. “We walked to this side of the street, and the nuts were all over the street, and there was a jack in the middle of the car, and the tires were gone.”

The damage was not visible from the side facing Rongo’s home. His wife nearly drove off, not realizing the car had been vandalized until a neighbor warned her.

“She started her vehicle, and I was really nervous, and said she doesn’t notice there aren’t any wheels on the other side of the car,” said neighbor Nestor Olmo. “I told her, and that’s when she said, ‘Oh my God.’”

Rongo called police. But it is unlikely the thieves will be caught.

“They said it pretty common around here,” Rongo said. “It’s all over the place, and I guess because of the car and the wheels – they were 18-inch alloys, one of the most popular to take especially off the Honda.”

This crime is known as auto stripping. The thief steals the entire wheel, which is then sold for the rim and tire.

The specific crime is not tracked by police. But we learned that the 114th Precinct in Astoria, Queens – where the Rongo’s live – ranks sixth in the city for stolen cars.

Overall, there has been a 53 percent spike in car thefts over the past month.

“They cost a lot — each rim can go for $700 each or more,” said Modestos Sitaras, owner of Cosmos Tire Center. “All four you’re looking at around $2,500, because you need the rims, the tires, the sensors, the centercabs, and all that adds up.”

Thieves are more likely to pass up an American cars and go for a foreign car. The reason is the rims are worth more money.

Toyota Service Manager Abel Baires said thieves target the Japanese-made Toyotas, because of the large expensive wheels.

“The new Scion, the Highlander with 20-inch wheels, Mensas, Sequoias — all the ones with the bigger wheels those are the ones they are looking for,” said Baires, of Queensboro Toyota.

As for Rongo, he plans to safeguard his wheels.

“Not going to go through that again,” he said. “It was horrible.”

Wheel locks run about $40 and just might keep your wheels from being stolen.

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