Car thieves leave a Fresno family without wheels

FRESNO, Calif.

The crooks ripped off the rims from a car on Truman near Sunnyside sometime Monday.

At first blush, the crime looks like a lot of others. But police say this crime breaks the mold of what they'd expect from thieves. They say the target indicates a new approach for thieves trying to make a quick buck.

This is a tire change Nancy Moreno didn't pay for. The sight of her husband's Dodge Charger missing a wheel and rim on the passenger side, and lugnuts lying in her lawn came as a shock as she surveyed the neighborhood Monday morning.

"I'm just looking out like I usually do," she said. "And then I looked out and I was like, 'Wait. There's a brick. That looks out of the ordinary.'"

Moreno ran outside and found both driver's side tires missing also, with bricks underneath each of the stolen tires.

Just one tire remained, with its distinctive skull-shaped valve cap still in place, although four of the tire's five lugnuts were also on the lawn.

"I think they got spooked with the last tire right here, maybe because it's more obvious with the window. Or maybe we could hear them or see them or more visible," Moreno said.

The thieves used concrete wedges to keep the car elevated, but those also prevented some costly damage to the car. Police say that's somewhat common, but the victims' car is not the usual target.

"This case is kind of unusual, you know, where they're going to steal stock tires," said Sgt. Mark Hudson, who supervises detectives in southeast Fresno.

Investigators say only a limited number of cars can actually use the tires, so the thieves will probably try to find buyers on Craigslist or eBay.

The Morenos say replacement tires cost about $500 each and their insurance probably won't cover it.

While this crime is disheartening, officers point to a drop in property crimes this year. That's especially true in Southeast Fresno, where auto theft is down almost 25%, and larcenies -- like this theft from a car -- are down a little more than 10%. But that's a small consolation to the Morenos, who just left Reedley for this neighborhood a few months ago.

"And I didn't expect that this would happen here," Nancy Moreno said. "But it just sucks."

Police say no neighborhood is immune from being targeted. In fact, they say thieves often target the wealthiest neighborhoods. Their top advice for protecting your car is to park it in the garage if you can.

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