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Leave the car, but take the airbag: car thieves have a new cash cow

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Remember when the stereo system was the hottest car accessory to be stolen? Portable TV screens and GPS devices are still a top draw for car thieves, but Los Angeles police say the object of the hour now is the air bag.

Last week, six vehicles in the Studio City and Toluca Lake areas were broken into and had their airbags ripped out. Three of these vehicle airbag thefts occurred on the same block on the same day, said Det. Keith Royce from LAPD’s North Hollywood division.

"Vehicles are involved in traffic collisions and airbags are expensive, so they’re targeted for resale value," he explained.

Stolen airbags sometimes end up at vehicle scrap yards. We found a few airbags for sale on Craigslist for $200 for a Toyota Corrola, and some on eBay range from $50 to $250.

Royce mentioned police also get reports of stolen catalytic converters, a car part that converts pollutants such as carbon monoxide into less harmful pollutants like carbon dioxide that are then emitted from a car via exhaust. The platinum and palladium metals found inside catalytic converters can also be stripped for a hefty price.

Royce said Toyotas get hit a lot (particularly older models), and trucks and SUV are easy targets because they sit higher off the ground, giving a thief easy access to slide under.  

Of course, Royce warns drivers, the mantra "Lock it, Hide it, Keep it" is good to remember in order to protect your airbags. But he adds an old-school “Club” lock on your car steering wheel could help deter airbag thieves, too.

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