After nighttime prowlers ripped the wheels off two Honda Fits, two East Rock neighbors pooled spare tires to help each other out of a jam—the latest in a wave of mysterious thefts.
The two East Rockers woke up Thursday morning to find their cars no longer had any wheels.
They were just the latest in a string of car owners who’ve lost their wheels to thieves.
The two neighbors live on Cottage Street and Livingston Street, about a block away from each other. The neighbors, a student and a mom at Worthington Hooker School, woke up Thursday to discover that thieves had stolen all four tires from their Honda Fits, which had been parked on the street.
The thefts were part of a pattern, according to police. Between six and nine Honda Fits have had their wheels stolen in the past month, according to police. Police theorized that the thieves may be targeting the wheels because the they are smaller than wheels on other modern cars; the price for smaller wheels, to be used on older cars, has gone up. Whatever the reason, the thefts seem to be part of a national trend.
Six of the thefts took place in East Rock, according to Lt. Kenny Blanchard, the neighborhood’s top cop. The thieves are working in the early morning, between 3 and 5 a.m.
Another Honda Fit had its wheels stolen Tuesday on Front Street in Fair Haven, according to Sgt. Herb Johnson, that neighborhood’s top cop.
Catherine McGuinness, of Livingston Street, was one of two East Rockers whose cars were hit early Thursday. She said her roommate woke her up at 3:30 a.m.
“The police are outside with your car!” her roommate told her.
Someone had spotted the thieves in progress and called the cops. By the time police came, the thieves had left. When she found her car, it was teetering on three points: a car jack, a rock, and the front bumper.
Police told her the car had to be towed because it was balancing precariously and could fall on a passerby, she said. That left her with a conundrum: How to tow a car with no tires?
Luckily—or rather, coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally—a neighbor around the corner found herself in the same position. The neighbor on Cottage Street’s Fit was also balancing on a rock and a jack.
Each neighbor had one spare tire. They decided to share the spares so that the towing company could roll their cars away.
McGuinness borrowed her neighbor’s spare first. Around noon, a crew from Unlimited Towing hauled her car away. McGuinness said she planned to lend her spare to her neighbor later that day so that she could do the same.
“Not really how I want to make connections with my neighbors, but a reasonable solution to the problem,” said McGuinness, who just moved to the neighborhood a few months ago.
Lisa Siedlarz, head of the SoHu (South of Humphrey) block watch, sent out several emails Thursday morning alerting neighbors to the thefts.
“There is a very simple solution to this,” she wrote: “Locking lug nuts,” which require a key to remove. “You can buy locking lug nuts from your car dealer, or Pep Boys, or AutoZone.” She said they cost around $25.
Blanchard said the thefts are happening between 3 and 5 a.m. He said he has tried shifting the district’s overnight patrol schedule to have more cops on to catch the thieves, to no avail. For now he advised neighbors to buy those lug-nut locks and keep eyes out for thieves.
The rock on the Cottage Street car had made a significant a dent in the body of the car.
A car hit on Oct. 8 on Eld Street was left up on bricks and jacks. The jacked cars are unsteady and present a danger to kids who might be be tempted to play near them, according to police.
Thieves also hit an Acura sedan in Wooster Square on Oct. 8, according to police.
posted by: westville man on October 17, 2013 1:08pm
can the authors confirm whether the cars had active alarms on them? Many of my neighbors who’ve had problems did not have alarms. We have them and never had a problem. I’m curious…
posted by: Laissez Fair Haven on October 17, 2013 3:25pm
Reply to Westville Man—Our poor little Honda Fits come with alarms, but there’s no tilt sensor. I’m skeptical that wheel locks will really deter any thieves worth their salt, but I suppose the minimal investment is worth a try. FYI, Honda Fits used to come with wheel locks as standard equipment, but no longer.
posted by: nhstudent4ever on October 17, 2013 3:30pm
Wow, what an irritating crime! Hopefully the police will find the perpetrators. I’m not sure how much good an alarm would do, though since I often hear many set off seemingly from nothing in the East Rock area. I for one tend to tune them out after a while unfortunately.
I think I read some where that the police walking beat goes until 11. While any sort of walking beat is appreciated, the time when they’re really needed is when it’s dark. Not sure how many hours the beats are total, but generally there are a lot of people out and about in East Rock in the early evening providing lots of eyes on the street. 11 to the early morning (when the wheel thefts seem to be occurring) are when a police presence is really needed.
posted by: PH on October 17, 2013 4:12pm
Fingerprint those jacks!
posted by: Hookermom on October 17, 2013 8:19pm
I’m the Worthington Hooker mom; that’s my car in the first photo. Imagine my surprise when I came out at 7:15 to go to work. I do not have an active alarm because it’s annoying to hear car alarms on a street with so many apartment dwellers (most of us are far from our cars and can’t see them from our windows). I didn’t have the wheel locks, but will now. I will have to pay $500 (deductible) and my car is pretty damaged. The dealer has to send it out for body work because the driver side door won’t open, and the side and rear bumpers are messed up. I won’t have it back for at least a week and don’t have rental insurance. I have on street parking only so cannot keep my car any more protected than it is. The police were extremely responsive and helpful, as were my friends and neighbors. The police did take the lug nuts for fingerprints but figure the thieves probably wore gloves.
posted by: Tina on October 17, 2013 8:27pm
There have also been ongoing break-ins as well on this street. My car two weeks ago to this day was broken into and ransacked. This is the fifth time in four years I have personally experienced this. My car has an alarm and I use the club. Last summer cars on this street and close by were being stolen for joy rides, stripped, and then dumped in Fair Haven. Today there were also two other cars on Livingston Street which had wheels taken. For some reason this is happening on Wednesday night to Thursday mornings.
posted by: jerichojax82 on October 18, 2013 3:14am
@hookermom there is a guy on Facebook who was selling 2 sets of Honda fit wheels and he posted them @ 5:55a.m Thursday morning… His profile says he’s from Newhaven. It may be a long shot but that could be your guy
If the thieves are consistently targeting a specific type of car, would it be effective / possible to strategically position a Fit or two in a location that can be staked out by police overnight? Or have I been watching too many cop movies?
It sounds like this string of robberies has already led to several thousand dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for residents, to say nothing of lost time, aggravation, etc.
posted by: robn on October 18, 2013 7:40am
The knuckleheads who are out doing this are probably too young and stupid to know that if they cause more than $1500 of damage to the car, they’ve committed a Class D felony and could serve 1 to 5 with a $5,000 fine. That’s on top of the Class D felony of parts theft.
posted by: elmcityresident on October 18, 2013 3:13pm
like i said Fair Haven!
posted by: Tina on October 18, 2013 6:32pm
the damage to my brake is $ 700.00 out of pocket. sadly nothing was worth stealing so they left empty handed but left me with a big mess, damaged property, a gigantic bill as well as a terrified young child who can’t comprehend why someone would break into our car over and over as well as our neighbors. this has happened too many times. I’ve set up a semi auto system to alarm myself if someone breaks in again. I can call the police quickly.