Parts from stolen cars being marketed online
By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Peter Boylan
Honolulu police warned residents yesterday about a rash of car thefts that's feeding online sales of stolen car parts.
Thieves have been stealing Honda Civics, Acura Integras and Toyota Camrys — many of them modified with after-market parts for racing or drifting — and stripping them for parts, police said. The cars are being taken from neighborhoods in Manoa, Kailua, Waipahu, Pearl City, Kalihi, Kahala and 'Aiea.
The thieves then drive to warehouses or rural spots and dismantle the vehicles for parts in "chop shops," police said.
"These cars are being stolen and then stripped and when we do recover them they are missing major parts," said Honolulu police Sgt. Kim Buffett. "A lot of these stolen parts are showing up on local Web sites. Make sure if you are buying parts that they are coming from reputable dealers and you know exactly where you are getting the part from."
Two teenage boys were arrested in Kalihi this week in connection with the thefts after a girl shopping for auto parts online recognized items from a car that had been stolen from her. The boys' names are confidential because they are juveniles.
Officers found the boys after posing as potential buyers. Police are looking into at least a half-dozen other advertisements online that are offering stolen parts for sale.
If police identify parts as stolen, the person in possession may be arrested for detaining stolen property and their vehicle may be seized for forfeiture, police said. Auto theft is a class "C" felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Car enthusiasts whose vehicles have been stolen expressed anger, with many saying the loss is more than monetary. Owners put a lot of time into refurbishing cars and develop an attachment to them.
In most cases, the after-market parts they bought to modify their cars cost much more than they received from their insurance coverage.
Sy Kodama, a 28-year-old auto mechanic who lives on Kapi'olani Boulevard, had his Yamaha sport bike stolen May 5, then lost his 2004 Acura Integra RS to thieves May 12. Neither has been recovered, although he says friends have told him they've seen his car being driven near Punahou School.
"It's upsetting and disappointing because you put all that time and money into the car and then 'poof' it's all gone," said Kodama. "Insurance covers the price of the car but not all the after-market mods. I had about $15,000 (in modifications) in that car."
Gabriel Weisbarth, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, came out of his class and walked to where he had parked his 1995 Honda Civic on Dole Street only to find it had been stolen.
On Sunday, Weisbarth was told that police found his car in 'Aiea, stripped for parts.
"They took my hood, my intake, they pulled out oil lines and vandalized the car so it wouldn't run," said Weisbarth. "I hoped my car had been towed but it was parked in a legal spot. You don't think that stuff is going to happen; Manoa is a nice area."
Arrests are not common in stolen-car cases, but police recover about 70 percent of the vehicles stolen on O'ahu. Of the cars that are recovered, almost 25 percent of them have parts missing, such as seats, engines and tires, police said.
Honda Civics, Toyota Camrys and Acura Integras are the most stolen vehicles on the island because they are easy to break into and there are a lot of them out there, police said.
LICENSE PLATE SWITCH
Thieves immediately switch license plates with legitimate vehicles, making it harder for police to trace them.
High-end vehicles, such as Mercedes, Audis and BMWs, are difficult to steal because of their elaborate, computerized starting mechanisms and imbedded global positioning chips that make them easy to track once they are reported missing.
Brandon Okahara, who is an estimator for his family's business, Oka's Autobody on Leokane Street in Waipahu, said the business does a lot of work on cars that were stolen or broken into.
"We deal with this all the time," he said. "Last week, we had two Acura Integras, both of them thieves attempted to steal and couldn't, so we had to replace ignition parts. We've gotten repeat customers."
Reach Peter Boylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.