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Rash Of Hybrid Car Battery Thefts Strikes Parts Of Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A highly-charged crime spree of sorts has erupted in Queens, and the ill-gotten goods being taken have been some of the most unusual in recent memory.

As CBS2's Scott Rapoport reported, it amounts to the latest wrinkle in smash and grab car thefts. Police said thieves are stealing 50-pound hybrid car batteries of all things -- right from under the trunks.

"I never heard of it. It's odd," one resident said.

The NYPD said 14 incidents have been reported citywide since November of last year. Twelve of them happened in the 108th Police Precinct, which includes Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens.

In each of those cases, the cars were Toyota Camrys. The overwhelming majority, police said, were yellow cabs.

Debra Markell Kleinert is the district manager for Queens Community Board 2.

"They're taking them out of the cars, and they're selling them on the open market," she said. "And people are coming out and finding their batteries missing."

Willie Padilla is shop foreman at the Cityworld repair shop in the Baychester section of the Bronx. He explained how the hybrid battery helps run the car.

"What the hybrid battery does – it actually gets the car rolling, and it can roll up to about 20 miles an hour on electric power alone," he said.

But that is not why they are in demand.

"They are worth 3,400 bucks," Padilla said. "They're very expensive."

But Padilla also said removing the batteries from the cars can be dangerous if the thrives don't know what they are doing.

"It's very high voltage," he said. "It's about 233 volts, and it can actually electrocute you if you touch the power wires."

Police did not divulge how the perps were able to extract the large, bulky batteries and make their getaway, nor did they reveal how many people they thought might be involved.

Police did say they were trying to determine the resale market for the batteries. The thefts were under investigation as of Monday as a pattern of grand larceny.

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