Rim/tire thieves work like a pit crew - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Rim/tire thieves work like a pit crew

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

September 18, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More Albany auto dealers report more crimes on their lots to Police. Dealers say in the last 30 days they have seen the worst crime spree they can remember.

One dealer says his surveillance video proves the thieves are professionals, stripping an entire set of rims and tires off an SUV in just six minutes.

Many auto dealers in Albany say they are ready to fight back, organizing, increasing security, and now offering rewards for information. Surveillance video proved these crooks are just about as fast as NASCAR pit crews.

At 3:46 Tuesday morning, Surveillance video shows this Buick Park Avenue or Ultra pulling from an alley into the back of Lawson Auto Sales. What you can't see is someone from another vehicle going around their building, disabling all their other surveillance video cameras.

After disabling the cameras, thieves took only six minutes to strip a set of expensive rims and tires off a Ford Expedition, leaving it on concrete blocks, and then drive off.

Lawson Auto Sales owner Jeff Lawson said "They're professionals. They know exactly what they are doing."

Lawson says the surveillance video proves to him these rim thieves have professional tools, and training.

"They have worked in a shop. They know how to do it. We've had locking lugs on them, and they bust the locking lugs off. It doesn't matter what you do," Lawson said.

Lawson is now offering a one thousand dollar reward for information on this car and the thieves inside it.  "If they look at this video, I think somebody is going to know who is doing this. Because this video will tell us at least who is stealing our wheels."

Meanwhile in East Albany, H&H Motors had this Ford Crown Vic totaled by thieves. They broke the window and steering column trying to steal it. It will cost more to repair than they could sell the car for.

"We've always had problems, but we've never had it like we're having it right now," said H&H Motors owner Randy Linahan.

Linahan is one of the Albany auto dealers ready to band together to protect their lots. Dealers are talking about hiring private guards and patrols, putting tracking devices on cars and wheels, and giving rewards.

Lawson said crime in Albany has him even considering moving. "I'll be honest with you. It's almost time for me to pack up and go to another city or another county."

Lawson said it's not just the auto dealers, he says all the small business owners he talks to in Albany say crime is a real problem.

Every Albany car dealer we have talked with this week has told us that they have increased security on their lots, worried about thefts and vandalism.

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