Wheels Up: Tire Theft Growing

Forget the car, thieves are going for your tires. Find out how to stop it.

October 15, 2010 — -- In the movie "Gone in 60 seconds," a skilled car thief steals a hot rod in less than a minute.

That's the movies. Today, a different kind of theft is on the rise. It doesn't involve your whole car, just the tires.

Brent Taylor was at home in Houston with his 2008 GMC Yukon parked safely outside. Or so he thought.

"It's very frustrating, pretty angry when you first notice it, then it kind of turns into disbelief," Taylor told ABC News affiliate KTRK.

In 25 minutes, two men removed the tires and rims from his SUV and left it on cinder blocks for Taylor to find.

Surveillance video shows that the thieves slowed down only to hide from passing vehicles, rolling the tires away as they took them off the car.

"It is pretty brazen for them to do that with other people driving by," Taylor said.

Expensive Tires Easy To Steal

Today's high-end wheels can cost more than a $1,000 each. Custom rims bring the total up to $2,000 each. At that price, they make an easy and appealing target.

Thieves are turning to auto parts instead of the whole car because vehicle tracking systems like OnStar and the increasing use of GPS devices makes it harder for thieves to steal cars and get away with it.

"If they show up with the right equipment or the right tools, they can have those tires off the car in five minutes or less," said Houston police officer Jim Woods.

That's not quite as fast as the 15 seconds it takes a NASCAR pit crew to do the job, but they have choreographed precision and pneumatic wrenches.

At an auto shop in New York, using only a star wrench and a rolling jack, two guys removed the tires in a matter of minutes.

Tips on How To Protect Your Car

How do you protect your car and its tires? ABC News checked in with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Here are some of their tips:

Use Tire Locks: An example of a tire lock would be a boot. These devices lock your wheels in place. A thief would have to get the boot off to steal both your car and your wheels. They cost around $100 and can be found in auto supply stores like AutoZone or ordered online at sites like Amazon.com.

Use Lug Nut Locks: Lug nut locks are an affordable way to protect your car. They can cost under $10 or be as expensive as $70. Drivers can literally lock their wheels into place, preventing a thief from using a wrench to unscrew the lug nuts.. Find them in auto supply stores or online at places like Amazon.com. Gorilla Auto sells both wheel locks and tire locks.

Get A Tracking System: A vehicle tracking system like LoJack or OnStar can help trace a stolen car. It can also dissuade thieves from tampering with your vehicle.

LoJack costs around $695. It installs a radio device in your car to help find a stolen vehicle.

OnStar is available in GM cars. It alerts police when a car is stolen; it also slows down the vehicle and blocks the ignition from being restarted once it's turned off. Service costs $18.95 a month.

Park in a High-Traffic Area: It sounds like common sense, but parking in a busy place can deter would-be thieves from choosing your car. Also, don't let laziness get the best of you. Remember always to lock your car. Keep your windows rolled up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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