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111th urges locals to watch out for car wheel thieves

Citing a recent surge in car-wheel thefts, the 111th Precinct is urging auto owners to take extra precautions when parking their cars.

Under the cover of darkness, organized groups of thieves go out at night and target high-end vehicles such as Hondas and Infinitis, stealing the rims and tires and leaving the vehicles sitting on blocks, according to Community Affairs Officer William Conway.

“These rim thieves are working for somebody, and every night they get a shopping list,” said Conway. “They’re professionals that work like a pit crew. They’re in and out in five minutes.” The rims and tires, which do not have identification numbers, are then sold to local body shops. Conway said he could not determine the cause of the recent spike.

The 111th covers Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Oakland Gardens and Auburndale.

The precinct has been handing out fliers, reminding auto owners of some of the basic principles to keep their property safe: park in well-lit areas, use a garage if one is available and activate anti-theft devices such as alarms and sensors. Wheel locks can be effective, since they require a key in order to remove the wheel. Conway warned that the thieves will smash a window to get the key out of the glove box — which is where most people store it — and urges car owners to hide it somewhere else.

Community Affairs Officer Gary Poggiali said the areas south of the Horace Harding Expressway and around Queensborough College are some of the most active for the thieves, but added that it is a problem seen throughout the neighborhood and in other precincts.

“We’re trying to catch these guys. We don’t just want to push them out into other precincts,” said Poggiali. He urged neighbors to remain vigilant and contact the police when they observe any suspicious activity. “A well-informed community can catch them.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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