Hondas a target for wheel thieves

Safe and small, reliable and affordable, Honda Civics and Fits are popular cars for suburban commuters. But lately, they’re also popular among wheel thieves, making these compact cars something of a crime target in Arlington.

On Tuesday night, the wheels were stolen from a Civic in the 5300 block of North Fifth Street, Arlington County police said. Monday night, it was a Fit in the 200 block of North Jackson Street. All told, 43 cars have been stripped of their tires in the county this past year. Seventeen were Fits; nine were Civics.

Honda owners might be asking: Why us?

“They’re used for street racing,” police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said. The cars’ 15-inch wheels, he said, fit well onto the low-riding import vehicles used for high-speed races.

The small size also makes the wheels easy to throw in the back of a truck, he said.

Wheel locks can be a deterrent, police said, but in most cases, thieves have figured out how to remove them. Sternbeck said drivers are advised to install and activate car alarms, park in well-lit areas and use garages when possible.

A regional auto task force is looking at the problem, which extends throughout Northern Virginia, Sternbeck said. Fits and Civics have also been targeted in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and New York in recent years.

Civics also come in second on the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of most-stolen cars of 2012, edged out by the Honda Accord. The cars stolen tend to be models from the 1990s.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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