Residents in a quiet New Jersey neighborhood say thieves have been taking wheels off their cars in the middle of the night, and authorities think a demand for car tires and rims is spurring the thefts.
On Monday, Catherine Nuesa of Linden woke up to find all four tires gone from her 2013 BMW 3-series. Some sophisticated thieves had pried them off before dawn, disabling the motion-sensing light above her garage to avoid getting caught.
"They have the right tools, they know what they're doing, and they seem to have a plan when they come here," she said.
Later that day, Nuesa's neighbor Eleanor Novalany opened her trunk and discovered the spare tire and jack were missing. Police say the thieves went to Novalany's driveway first to steal the tools out of her Honda, and then used them to remove Nuesa's BMW wheels.
"We are very nervous about it. My neighbor Colleen said, 'I didn't sleep last night. She said we are not used to this,'" said Novalany.
Crime is extremely low in the Sunnyside section of Linden, but in the last few months, police have gotten reports of three tire thefts. Neighbors believe the actual figure is higher.
Police Capt. James Sarnicki says the potholes created during the brutal winter are partly to blame.
"With the amount of tires and wheels being damaged from potholes, there might be a demand for car tires and rims," said Sarnicki.
The wheel theft in Linden follows similar reports in the Glen Oaks section of Queens, where dozens of cars have had wheels stolen. No one is connecting the incidents, but police believe the many flat tires and dented rims from all the potholes are creating a hot market for stolen wheels.
Police in Linden recommend motion-sensing lights and wheel locks. Both cars burglarized Monday had alarms, and it's not clear how the thieves were able to bypass them.