Bristol Police Warn: Protect Against Wheel Thefts

Don Stacom
Contact Reporterdstacom@courant.com

After four residents discovered thieves had stolen the wheels off their cars early Monday morning, police are advising vehicle owners to take extra precautions.

Thieves appear to be targeting imported sedans, and are striking quickly in the pre-dawn hours, police said.

“Since April 9 we’ve received 24 complaints of cars being jacked up and the tires and rims being stolen,” Police Chief Brian Gould said Tuesday night.

The four thefts on Monday followed a similar pattern, he said. Thieves primarily go to dark residential driveways and apartment complexes with large parking lots, according to investigators.

Since last spring, rashes of similar crimes have occurred in Hartford, West Hartford and Stamford, typically in big enough numbers that detectives believe the wheels and tires are later being sold commercially.

Gould updated the city council at its meeting Tuesday night and used the opportunity to call on residents to make it harder for thieves.

“I encourage all of you to take steps to harden the target. These are typically crimes of opportunity, and the objective is to take that opportunity away,” Gould said.

“Do not leave spare vehicle key fobs, keys or garage door openers in your vehicles. Enable any security features your vehicle may have,” he said. “Always park in a well-lit area. It’s really important we harden that target right in front of our own homes.”

Like most central Connecticut communities, the city suffered a surge in car break-ins last year with thieves going after cash, gift cards, electronics and other items left on car seats or in glove compartments.

But the new crimes appear to target the wheels of specific types of cars: Acura, Audi, Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Infiniti and Volkswagen. SUVs so far have not been targeted.

Police believe teams of thieves jack up one corner of a vehicle, put a milk crate or rock underneath to keep it up, then start jacking up another corner. Meanwhile, another thief pulls the lug nuts and removes the first wheel.

Police believe they’re pulling all four wheels in about 10 minutes, moving so quickly that they leave the milk crates or rocks behind. In the morning, the car owner finds the vehicle with four bare rims.

Gould promised that Bristol investigators are working with their counterparts in other communities to track down who is committing the thefts — and where all of the tires are going.

But there aren’t nearly enough patrol cars to monitor all neighborhoods steadily, so it’s important that residents illuminate their driveways. To discourage car break-ins and outright theft of cars, he also recommended locking vehicles and garages every time, and being careful not to leave valuables behind.

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