Stealers Wheel: Block banditry strikes again

A week after the theft of her tires and rims, city resident Jennifer Crosby's car is still perched on cinderblocks awaiting replacement tires, which were shipped to Richmond.

Less than two weeks after a brazen theft of all four wheels from a Honda parked on a downtown cul-de-sac and a second incident at an apartment complex behind Putt-Putt on Rio Road, a Locust Lane resident awoke to a similar shocking sight as she left her house for work earlier this month: her 2002 black Acura Integra was up on cinderblocks, all four tires and rims missing.

"It was 15 feet from where I sleep," says the car's incredulous owner, Jennifer Crosby, who discovered the crime on Monday morning, April 6.

Is big-city crime rearing its ugly head more frequently in Charlottesville these days?

Actually, no, says Charlottesville Police Captain Allen Kirby– and the wheel thefts are an anomaly.

"It's something that's very rare," says Kirby, who says he can't remember another back-to-back tire theft in his 33 years on the force– and who says crime in general is down in the city since last year, despite tough economic times.

That piece of good news is little consolation to Crosby, who lives in Locust Meadows–- a quiet "tight knit" neighborhood of two cul-de-sacs, where, Crosby says, neighbors look out for each other's property. Yet even though Crosby's driveway sits in plain view of 15 other houses, no one heard a noise or saw anything suspicious, says Crosby, as the thief or thieves made off with the wheels.

Her story is eerily similar to the other recent wheel theft inside the city limits, which happened early in the morning on Saturday, March 21 on Roy's Place, a new cul-de-sac in the Ridge Street neighborhood. Like Crosby's neighbors on Locust Lane, residents of Roy's Place slept through the night, only noticing the missing rims on the black 2003 Honda Civic (pictured left) upon walking outside in the morning.

The Honda's owner, Stacy Libitz, says even the responding officer was surprised by the crime, claiming he'd only seen a wheel-less vehicle in movies.

But Frank Scafidi, spokesperson for the New York based National Insurance Crime Bureau, says such bold thievery is all too common– if not in Charlottesville, certainly in bigger cities.

"There's a market for those items," Scafidi explains, adding that usually the motive of the theft is to "get something that is quickly turned to cash" and that there is often a "corresponding problem with drug addiction."

Scafidi says the Bureau does not keep track specifically of the number of tire and wheel thefts, but he notes that Honda Civics in particular are generally popular among thieves. Wheel locks– bolts that require a specialized wrench to loosen– are effective deterrents for amateur thieves, although Scafidi admits that a determined and experienced criminal can find a way to either remove the wheel– or could just decide to take the whole car.

Both Crosby and Libitz had standard-issue wheels and rims that came with the car, and both had insurance. But while Libitz was able to replace her wheels without out-of-pocket expense, Crosby– whose replacement wheels ran $1,900– felt the sting of a $500 deductible; she plans to take extra precaution once her new wheels are in place.

"I'm definitely getting the wheel locks," she says.

In the meantime, Charlottesville police are on the lookout for the wheel thieves who they believe are likely responsible for both city thefts and possibly the county theft as well.

"We can speculate they were related," says Kirby, but "we won't know for sure until we can clear the cases up."


People might as well get used to these crimes. They're going to happen more often. And the reason is the lack of manpower in police departments.

Having said the above, this lack of manpower within police departments is self inflicted. Police departments have assigned so many cops to specialized duties now that's there's very few leftover for the patrol divisions to work with. You take 5 or 6 cops and toss them into a Drug Task Force. You take 6 or 8 cops, buy a few motorcycles, and call it a Traffic Enforcement Division. The county police department even has a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division now, a duplication of services already provided by the Virginia State Police. A dozen cops spread out in the school systems. The list goes on and on and on. And what few they might have left to work the midnight shift are always busy responding to calls as they come in.

Going one step further on this shortage of manpower, think about what the patrol division is actually doing, it's shortage is also self inflicted. When you see a crash on Route 29 at 2:00 a.m., 4 to 6 police cars show up and sit around for hours. You don't need 6 cops to work a traffic accident. The only purpose they really serve is to basically make a congested accident scene even more congested. And all along the city/county has no routine patol of businesses or neighborhoods taking place then. Even on a simple traffic stop, you will have 3 or 4 police cars show up as they routinely violate every Constituional right the driver and passengers have.

As I said, get used to the petty crimes, there's nobody out there patrolling businesses and neighborhoods any longer.

... meant to say you can hot her car WITH A ROCK if you have a strong arm and stand on the police chief's front porch!


Anything can happen. It just isn't likely.


I'm certainly not unaware of what is going on around me. I'm sure we could get into a great debate about who is or isn't doing what they are supposed to (parents, police officers, etc). I choose to do what I can to help improve this community, and try to focus on the positive.

Off to bake cookies now...

I see they have moved on from wood to cinderblocks. I hate to tell the car owners this but a local tire store pointed out that wheel locks won't cut it if someone wants your tires bad enough. They can deflate the tires and be gone in 10-15 minutes. The better route would be a car alarm, even a cheaply made one, that creates some noise...or a big dog.

this happened to my friend about a month ago. he was parked on grady. the cops told him he needed to tow it or they would ticket him. awesome job, guys.

just plain mt SoTLR! i'm genderless, raceless, and from what i'm told tasteless, just like my psychedelic of choice, duuuude.... you are mr., mrs., miss "read what you want in anything what-so-ever," so do as you shall yet again.

you are master! neither those who worship you as lord now, nor those who will once they come to their senses, yet only those who would risk being damned for eternity, would dare to question that as master you are therefore infallible.

that said, i am not afraid, and my comment earlier was meant to suggest that i didn't think most of the wretched scum who pollute their veins with poisons purchased through the sale of stolen rims bother to investigate just how close they are to the homes of law enforcement personnel when they do their evil deeds. i also don't think it is reasonable to expect the police chief to go without sleep while he listens for the tell-tale bumps in the night of ne'er-do-well miscreants. so then i ask, "what freakin' diff. does it make just how close the police chief's house is?"

Imagine how many sets of wheels would turn up missing if angela davis had her way and we abolished jails.

Just rode by and looked at Crosby's car. Yes, I have no life. :)

Believe it or not, you can hit her car if you have a stong arm and stand on the police chief's front porch! What's this world coming to if you live that close to the chief and still get ripped off?

SOLR Are you kidding? Get used to these crimes. Great advice. How about a car alarm or neighbor hood watch? How about park under motion activated lighting? If you don't have a solution you are just part of the problem.

maybe everyone ought to have a sign out front saying how far they are from the police chief's house. at least then this lady might still have some rims. if fear of having the police chief throw rocks at him while he's at work doesn't stop a man from doing this sort of thing, i don't know what will.

I blame the media

Mr/Mrs/Miss mt, you don't find it the least bit interesting that this theft took place so close to the police chief's residence? If you want to turn it into a joke, more power to you. I'll be laughing. But I won't be laughing with you, I will be laughing at you. I think this theft shows that today's criminals have no respect whatsoever for other people, other people's property, or law enforcement.

You can read the statistics and tales about crime going down as much you like. You can frame it and hang it on your wall if it makes you feel good. But it simply isn't true. The neighborhood where the Crosby theft took place has been going to Hades in a handbasket for the last 10 to 15 years. Some people don't even call the police and report crime any longer. What's the satisfaction in wasting an hour or two waiting for a cop to respond and take a report about a weedeater theft, a lawnmower theft, or a car breakin? And then never hearing one word back from them at a later date? What's the chances of ever getting that weedeater, lawnmower or smal items stolen from your car back? Slim to none! A lot of people don't even report car breakins any longer due to the $500 deductible on their auto insurance policies.

Mr/Mrs/Miss really, no, I am not kidding. 99% of the population is not going to invest in or have car alarms installed. And motion activated lighting is useless. Pu your thinking caop on! If the criminals are brave enough to jack a car up 15 feet from a person's bedroom, Bad Guy #1 will certainly hoist Bad Guy #2 up far enough to unscrew exterior light bulbs. But moving on in this discussion, Neighborhood Watch is part of the problem for three reasons if you read above closely. #1 - You take cops off the street and assign them into the specialized duty of setting up and creating the program. #2 - the cops you have assigned are now not availabe to patrol businesses and neighborhoods when these businesses and neighborhoods need patrolling. And #3 - Neighborhood Watch does not work at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. in the morning. People are in bed and asleep. You do realize that Neighborhood Watch means neighbors watching out for one another and their property? Who is going to sit up tonight and watch the wheels and tires on my car while I am sleeping? Ahh, nobody!

40 years ago nearly every houise on locust was left unlocked during the day and probably at least half during the night. we now have theft resitant cars, wheel locks, removable radio faceplates and alarms for the house and car ...

The crime rate is not down because there are less criminals, it is down because the citizens armed themselves with deadbolts, lights and alarms.

The other truth is that people DO NOT call the police and report crimes and the police actually discourage it to avoid paperwork and bad stats that they don't want to have to deal with.

lock em up and throw away the keys...

would someone come steal one of my cars? both of them maybe?

Sick of the Local Rambos, I think you've got the wrong neighborhood. Locust Meadows is not "going to Hades in a handbasket". It is actually a very nice, quiet neighborhood of professionals and families. Sadly this one petty, senseless theft occurred. By the way, Locust Meadows has only been in existence for 15 years.

mas, when I speak of "the neighborhood", I am not simply including a small subdivision called Locust Meadows. Locust Meadows is nothing more than a very short street with one cul-de-sac. I think the official term for the entire neighborhood is "Locust Grove"?? If you think it's a safe neighborhood, feel free to keep on thinking that. Read up above what Egore said. Crime is down because people get no results when they take the time to report a crime to the police any longer. It absolutely amazes me that you believe that only one petty senseless crime has taken place in the neighborhood. You're buying into exactly what local law enforcement wants you to believe. I do not insult people, and this is not an insult.... but I picture you as the type of person who bakes 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies and takes them to the Annual Police Awards banquet each year. You have been brainwashed to believe you live in a safe community.

If you want to talk about a neighborhood just across the bypass from Locust Grove, a young girl was killed in a vicious home invasion not very long ago. The prize was a laptop computer, and the murderers stole her car to ride home 3 blocks to their residence. What makes you think this could not have happened in Locust Meadows just as easily?

mas, after the weather warms up just a little bit more, you can improve my community by baking me about a dozen chocolate chip cookies a few times per week. I will sit on my front porch and eat them while I watch the neighbor's property for them. :)

Don't get me wrong.... I just hate to see people become complacent by believing they live in a "safe" community. There is no such thing as a safe community nowadays. I bet even Sheriff Taylor has drugs and crime in Mayberry by now.

just plain mt, who said anything about the police chief sitting up all night so as to protect his neighborhood? As a matter of fact, I think he should have a block party with free beer and food for all every night until we all pass out. Afer all of us pass out we won't care if the bandits jack cars up, leave the tires and wheels, and take the entire car with them instead. :)

If police departments nationwide hadn't created so many specialized duties to give the public that good ole warm and fuzzy feeling, they would have enough cops left in patrol divisions to patrol businesses and neighborhoods after midnight.

It's just something about me, I just can't help but notice the ways things are done in this city. Instead of having a dozen cops at McIntire Park last night to make sure no citizens parked their vehicles within the park (redirecting EVERYBODY to Charlottesville High School again), they could have paid these cops the same overtime pay to patrol businesses and neighborhoods after midnight.

SOLR: you certainly make a good point.When my neighbor called last fall to report suspicious & I'm sure criminal activity on our street the cops never did come. She was called back over an hour later & told they were too busy with other calls. It was 10:00 on a Saturday morning.This was Albemarle Co.police.

Dave, it is the same in the city. I actually called to report a felony theft in the city about a year ago. Two hours later I called back and told them to forget it! I was then told I could go on the Internet and file a report online if I wanted to. Yeah, no thanks, cop shoppe, Bye!

What bothers me most is the fact when they had a case of mistaken identity back in 2005, the city police had no problem whatsoever sending three cops to my home. With a fourth cop sitting on the phone in the background telling them I was an "armed and dangerous" individual.

Mistaken identity, 4 cops. Wanting to file a felony theft report and they couldn't send as much as ONE cop.

When push comes to shove, and especially in a critical incident, people only then learn how inefficient their police agencies really are in the city and county. The other day, in a 15 minute conversation to Botetourt County, Va. 911, a man finally had to shoot and kill a man breaking into his home before police finally got to the scene of the crime. Thank God the man had firearms in his home to protect himself and his family.