Members of the Dallas County North Texas Auto Theft Task Force parked a pickup truck on the side of a busy Dallas highway. But this was no ordinary pickup. It was rigged with cameras designed to catch tire thieves.
From a trailer a half-mile away, Sheriff’s Department Dep. John Harris watched and waited to see whether anyone took the bait, four tires worth about a $1,000 each.
Detectives started the sting after noticing more and more thieves were stealing expensive tires and rims, but leaving the car.
“Since 2008, we have had 349 arrests on this wheel-and-tire operation,” said Jerry Allen of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
There are dozens of videos on YouTube showing how common the crime is across the country. People walk to their driveway to head to work only to find their car isn’t going anywhere.
It happened to several neighbors in Oklahoma City. “I came out, the wheels and tires were gone,” one man said. “It’s sitting up on blocks.”
Tires are easy to sell, hard to trace and can take less than a minute to steal.
“With hydraulic jacks, jacks or blocks, it looks like an Indianapolis pit crew,” Allen said.
It might not be Indy, where they can take off the wheels in 15 seconds, but it’s close. One security camera caught two crooks stripping a car of all four tires in broad daylight in 45 seconds flat.
A car dealership is a goldmine. Thieves showed up after midnight at one dealership outside Dallas, cut the lights, put 35 trucks on blocks and stole 135 tires worth $150,000.
Back at the task force’s truck, a man took the bait and tried to roll away with two tires. He didn’t get far, stopped in his tracks by the police, now going nowhere with his new wheels.
Tips for Protecting Your Car:
1. If you park on the street, park under a light. If you park in a driveway, make sure lights are installed there too.
2. Write the VIN number on the inside of your tires so they can be traced.
3. Get locking lug nuts for your tires.