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Hot Wheels: Thieves Steal Tires, Rims Off Several New Vehicles In Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Several vehicles have been stripped of their wheels in Queens, and the cars all have something in common, police say.

Sierra Campanella's Honda Accord Sport was left high and dry on top of milk crates last month just down the street from her Queens home.

"I was crying on the floor in my pajamas," she told CBS2's Valerie Castro.

Police say at least 16 cases of stolen tires and rims have been reported in neighborhoods like Astoria, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst since February.

"The guys must have been professionals. They did it really fast, they were in and out. Nobody heard anything, nobody saw anything," said Campanella.

AAA's Robert Sinclair told Castro this isn't surprising. He said the fact thieves are targeting newer Honda Accords, Accura MDXs and Toyota Camrys can be attributed to how popular the cars are on the showroom floor.

"The new 2018 Honda Accord has been voted the North American car of year at the Detroit Auto show back in January. It's very sleek looking, it's got some highly stylized wheels," he explained.

The 115th Precinct recently tweeted a warning for owners of new Honda Accords.

Campanella's was a 2017.

"It was brand new that my parents bought me, paid off in full, got me insurance, and then it's just thrown in my face," she said. "It's ridiculous."

Police sources told CBS2 the suspects are likely part of an organized crime ring that works in teams. Suspects in a scout car will pick out a target, then a van is called in with the tools to do the job.

A car can be stripped in a matter of minutes. The parts are then resold. Things like wheel locks do help, but they aren't always foolproof.

Campanella's car, for example, did have them.

"A determined thief cannot be stopped. All they need is time and perhaps some equipment to be able to get the wheels," said Sinclair, who suggests parking in well-lit areas or removing the temptation altogether. "Maybe get the cheaper wheels and tires that aren't as desirable."

Police sources said the NYPD is stepping up patrols in targeted neighborhoods.

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