30 vehicles vandalized in wheel heist at Honda dealership in N.C.

on Jun18

“It appears the entire motivation was to gain the equipment to facilitate more larceny,” a spokesman for the Union County, N.C., Sheriff’s Office said. Photo credit: Union County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe, N.C.

Over 30 new cars were vandalized at a Honda dealership in North Carolina in a scheme to remove car jacks in order to steal wheels and tires.

The culprits, who have not been identified, shattered passenger windows to obtain jacks from the vehicles on Monday night. Then, they took wheel lock keys from three Accord Sport models and one Pilot, placed the jacks underneath the vehicles, and removed all four wheels and tires, said Tony Underwood, chief of communications for the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

“It appears the entire motivation was to gain the equipment to facilitate more larceny,” Underwood said. “And they wanted to get the lug nuts so they could remove the tires.”

Employees arrived at Metro Honda in Union County on Tuesday morning to find four vehicles hoisted on car jacks among the vandalized cars, said Underwood.

The 2017 Accord Sport, which won’t sound an alarm when windows are smashed, comes standard with flashy 19-inch wheels — a big-money component that can be stripped right on the spot.

That same night, vandals broke into three other vehicles at a used-car dealership across the street, removing radios, wheels and tires. Underwood suspected those events are connected.

The overall damage — including labor, time, inventory and transportation costs — has not been released.

The dealership does not have surveillance cameras, but the used-lot across the street caught footage of its own three-car damage. That video is inconclusive so far, Underwood said.

“We’re just comparing notes with other agencies who may have some information on other thefts in the area to see if they’re in any way connected,” he said.

Several attempts to reach officials at the Honda dealership were unsuccessful.

Highest-selling

Honda’s Accord and Civic models had the most thefts out of any other car model in 2015 — 52,244 for Accords and 49,430 for Civics. Mostly because they are among the highest selling models in North America, said Jessica Howell, midwest communications manager at Honda North America.

“There are just more of them out on the roads,” she said.

The stolen vehicles are mostly from model year 1998 and older, when the first iteration of the smart key — an electronic access and authorization system — came along, according to Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, who compiles auto theft data.

NICB doesn’t track break-ins involving stolen equipment, but Scafidi said they’re seeing more criminals prey on new-car parts at dealerships to avoid the complicated VIN switching, cloning and other sophisticated criminal methods involved in stealing a vehicle.

Better security systems coupled with high demand for their parts make Honda wheels a choice target for criminals looking to turn over inventory quick and at a decent price.

“They’re just a very reliable vehicle, there’s a gazillion of them on the road, they last a long time” Scafidi said. “That’s a good part of what drives the thefts.”

The wheels taken from the Metro Honda can be used on a number of Honda models, making them more attractive to sell, according to Patrick Clancy, vice president of law enforcement for LoJack Corp., a company that tracks and helps dealers and law enforcement recover stolen vehicles. The same bolt pattern is shared across several models and has remained unchanged for over a decade.

“When those popular models need parts later in their lives, stealing those parts can be lucrative,” he added.

It wasn’t a coincidence the dealership’s Sport models were targeted, he explained.

“Anything with a set of performance parts on it makes it even more attractive,” Clancy said. “They’re high value targets for thieves.”



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