Police in Grandview have reported that thieves stole the wheels from 5 vehicles in the past week. What makes these thefts unusual is that most happened in full daylight, on streets and parking lots that were open and in view of any passing car. I have some theories about how the tire heists were done, but first a solution that will keep your wheels safe (probably).
Wheel Locking Lugs are inexpensive
The cheapest way to secure your wheels is a set of locking lugs, $20 to $30 will provide moderate security (if thieves want your expensive rims, they will find a way). The lugs are easy to install by yourself, just remove one nut from each wheel, slip the locking key on top of the replacement lug, and tighten to specs. for your car. You will need to keep the security key in a safe place (not the glove compartment, thieves know to look inside). You will also need to use the key to remove the wheel if you break down on the side of the road, so don’t lose it!
Guessing the M.O.
The news reports listed some similarities in all of the thefts, this gives us some clues to understand how they got away with these bold tire ripoffs.
Both wheels on one side of the vehicle were taken. There were bricks or blocks left under the cars. And the daylight thefts would have required speed – they probably had the wheels off and were thrown into the getaway car within a few minutes. I’m not an expert, but I have changed enough tires to make some good guesses.
The getaway vehicle was driven up to the side of the target car, and parked. They could have used a van, and opened the side door, to have quick access to the tools. Parking close to the target gave them some cover, and blocked the view for 180 degrees.
The first guy pulled a floor jack out and placed it under the side of the car, centered between the wheels. This allowed him to lift the whole side of the car in one motion, and allowed the removal of both wheels on one side.
The second man was working on the first tire while the car was being jacked up, popping off the hub caps and loosening the nuts. He probably used a battery powered impact driver, which could have the nuts off within a minute (something like the air wrenches used in garages, but quieter). As the jack man finished, the wrench man moved down to the second wheel and started on that set of nuts. Meanwhile, the other guy was finishing removal of the tire and throws it into the van. The nut removal guy finishes the second wheel, and moves it out of the way. The jack man has been placing blocks under the exposed brakes. They throw the second tire inside, drop the car onto the blocks, and slide the jack out and into the van.
Total time might be no more than 5 minutes for a well practiced couple of thieves.
I’m not too sure how they avoided setting off car alarms, most of them contain tilt sensors that are triggered by lifting the car. Possibly the thieves check for alarms before they start? And how can they avoid being seen by passing cars? Somebody is going to see something, and report to the police the make and model of the getaway vehicle. I’m guessing by that time the crew will have moved on to the next city.
No matter if these guys are caught, you need locking nuts to protect your car, if you don’t want to walk out one morning and find your wheels missing.
(April 11 update) GHPD caught a tire thief in the act, he had already removed the tires from one car and was in the process on a second when the police caught him. I’m surprised this was one person, he must have been really good at removing wheels to get away with it by himself.
(April 27 update) The same guy was allegedly dragging a cop while he attempted to flee in his car, and was shot and killed by the officer.