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'BMW bandits' spreading from Westside into Valley, LAPD says

The "BMW bandits," a group of professional thieves who have been stealing air bags and headlights for luxury cars on the Westside and in the Mid-Wilshire area, appear to be spreading to the San Fernando Valley.

In recent months, about 54 BMWs on the Westside or in Mid-Wilshire have had air bags, which can cost thousands of dollars to replace, and highlights ripped off by one or more skilled auto thieves.

BMW owners and Los Angeles Police Department officials in the Valley say they are seeing a similar phenomenon, but officials said the number of cars hit in the Valley is somewhat smaller.

It goes in waves. Usually they move from brand to brand of vehicle," said Capt. Bill Eaton of Van Nuys Division. "They are usually fulfilling orders."

Sherman Oaks resident Darin Nathan said his 5 Series BMW had its air bag and headlights stolen last Thursday. According to Nathan, the BMW was on the street in front of his house and in plain view at the time of the burglary.

He said the cost of replacing the equipment is about $6,000 but that in his case they did not damage the car.

He said that while he was at the dealership getting the repairs, he saw a 3 Series BMW that was heavily damaged by the burglars. Nathan said he has heard that his was one of seven cars to fall victim to the air bag thieves.

Studio City resident Brian Baker said his X-3 BMW was also parked in front of his home when its air bags were stolen earlier this month. He said LAPD evidence technicians "fingerprinted" his car as part of the investigation.

Air bags have replaced the radio, wheel rims and other fittings as auto thieves' favorite item to steal. They are portable, relatively easy to steal and a hot item on the black market.

More than 10% of all automobile thefts involve air bags, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by insurance companies.

-- Richard Winton

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Comments () | Archives (3)

Interesting story, Richard, but is there not serial# info on these headlights and airbags that can be traced back through to the 2nd-hand/black market and frontline burglers...?

Am I breaking ground on new crime-solving theory here?

That's really pathetic, taking someone's airbag and headlights. If those clowns tried it on me they might see guy pointing an AK47 at them.

They aren't "spreading to the San Fernando Valley", they've been here for awhile. My BMW was hit by this crew in the Valley in August, where they stole my headlights and cell phone from inside the car (and thankfully were scared off before taking the air bags). They were clearly professional based on the precise damage they did to get what they needed.

Compounding the problem - or perhaps causing it - is that the BMW dealerships in the area don't keep these headlights in stock. Meaning that you may have to spend weeks without your car waiting for the replacement parts to arrive. It's a ridiculous situation all around.


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