MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Busy thieves have been striking in the middle of the night, ripping off costly tires and rims.
As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, Nassau County police said the thieves have struck more than 100 times in inclement winter weather.
Police said the thieves use the sounds of the stormy weather to mask their crimes, removing tires and rims when wind is howling and trees coming down, so people sound asleep don't hear their jacks working and their costly new cars -- slamming down on the driveway.
A neighbor pointed out a morning shocker to Juanita Gonzalez.
"He said, 'Your car – what happened to your car?'" Gonzalez said.
The Mercedes-Benz in Gonzalez's Hempstead driveway was propped up on bricks – all four tires and rims hauled away.
"It just makes me very angry; makes me feel violated," Gonzalez said.
It is a familiar feeling to Dr. Kenroy Woodley.
"I just came out one morning and I found my car on four bricks," Woodley said.
His brand new Honda was stripped of all tires and rims, and it was the second time tire thieves had struck on his Valley Stream block.
Nassau County police counted 117 cases since September, including more than two dozen since the new year. The most recent incidents were in Valley Stream and Elmont, and incidents have also been reported in Albertson, Bellmore, Carle Place, Hicksville, North Bellmore, and Seaford.
The thieves have targeted newer-model Mercedes Benzes, Hondas and Toyotas -- striking in the overnight hours. Surveillance video from outside of Nassau County showed it takes just seconds to swipe sets of tires and rims worth $3,000.
"Think about a NASCAR race," said Nassau County police Detective Lt. Richard LeBrun. "Usually within 30 seconds, all the tires are off."
The best protection, Woodley said, is to "be vigilant and keep your eyes open, and look out for your neighbors."
Woodley has now installed locks, two on each wheel.
Police also advised making sure driveways are well-lit, and said cars should be parked in the garage if possible. Surveillance cameras are also a good idea.
Meantime, police have flooded streets in hard-hit areas with added patrols
Theft victim Gonzales didn't hear her tires ripped off. Police said thieves often strike during stormy weather to mask the sounds.
"If you're in your house and you hear the wind blowing and you hear a thump, you usually think it's a tree down or something else. You're not necessarily going to look at your car at that point," Gonzalez said.
With more snowy weather expected Tuesday night, police warned that people should be alert. The thieves may first drive around staking out target cars, and they may even loosen lug nuts in advance.
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