CRIME

Airbag thefts increase in D.C. area

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Authorities have a warning for you if you park your car on the street. Thieves are targeting entire communities and they're after one thing: your airbag.

Police say there has been a rash of airbag thefts in the D.C. region in recent weeks. And certain types of cars are especially vulnerable.

As a D.C. resident, Diane Hartley is no stranger to having thieves target her car. Her car had been vandalized just a few months ago, but the most recent incident right before New Year's Day took her by surprise.

"I had a portable GPS that wasn't taken, CD's not taken," she says. "Only airbags taken."

Hartley says the thief or thieves popped the hood of her 2004 Acura and disconnected the battery.

"Then they were able to break the window, get in the car and not set off the alarm," she says.

Hartley's airbag was one of six stolen that same night in Cleveland Park.

Experts say if your car is parked on the street, it's fair games for thieves. They typically target popular models like Nissans and Hondas where demand is high.

Car theft expert Tom Reich says last week in Laurel, 17 airbags were stolen at one apartment complex and another three in a Silver Spring neighborhood.

"Just like any other type of crime it goes in a cycle," Reich says. "Right now there's an upsurge in the thefts."

Sold on websites like ebay and Craiglist, and to some unscrupulous repair shops in the area, stolen airbags are an easy way to make fast cash, Reich says.

"There's no overhead," he says. "You turn around and sell it to individual for $150. He goes around and makes $800 dollars on a particular airbag.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates 60,000 airbags are ripped out of cars annually, costing an estimated $50 million.

Experts warn if you're getting a new airbag installed, make sure it's new and legitimate.

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