On several Fridays over the past two months, Calvert County Park and Ride lots have been targeted by thieves looking for something very specific: air bags.
About a dozen air bags have been stolen in recent weeks during daylight hours from Park and Ride lots in Dunkirk, Huntingtown and Prince Frederick, said Sgt. Roe King of the Calvert criminal investigations team. During the most recent theft, on Oct. 28, someone broke into four vehicles at the Dunkirk lot and stole six air bags, an amplifier, a CD changer and a navigational system, police said.
"They're breaking into these cars and taking the whole unit intact so they can resell it and install it," said Sgt. Mike Moore of the criminal investigations team. "They have an outlet for them . . . ultimately they have a market for these components."
King said a stolen air bag can be sold for about $1,500. She said investigators believe the same people are probably responsible for all of the recent thefts. The thieves, for some reason, tend to target Hondas with tan interiors, she said. They wait until people have left their cars to ride buses to work, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., then break the windows to gain access and remove the air bag from the steering wheel or dashboard without it deploying, she said.
"They're very good at it," King said.
The Calvert thieves are not the only people stealing air bags. Each year more than 75,000 air bags are stolen, at a cost of $50 million to insurers and vehicle owners, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. On one night last November, about a dozen air bags were stolen in Bethesda. Last fall in Howard County, about three dozen air bags were taken.
Police said that some of the components of an air bag are gold-plated but that the thieves are not in it for the gold; they can sell the whole system to auto parts shops to reinstall.
"It's a scam," King said.
Said Moore: "We will increase patrols in those areas. It is a concern of ours. That's about all we can do at this particular time."