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Airbag Thieves Target North Arlington Vehicles

National Insurance Crime Bureau: Airbag theft a growing crime trend.

Car airbag theft is a growing crime trend, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Roswell Patch file photo
Car airbag theft is a growing crime trend, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Roswell Patch file photo

At least nine vehicles in North Arlington were broken into and had their airbags stolen from the steering wheel this month.

Airbag theft is a growing crime trend, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, or NCIB. An estimated 50,000 airbags are stolen each year, costing vehicle owners more than $50 million.

An airbag sells for about $1,000 from a car dealer but can go for between $50 and $200 on the black market, according to the NCIB.

Dishonest repair shops can install stolen airbags in a vehicle and then charge the owner or insurance company the full price for the replacement, the bureau reports.

Between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 a.m. Friday, at least nine vehicles were robbed of their airbags in North Arlington, according to information police released this week.

The addresses of each incident were not immediately available. Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told Patch all of the thefts were north of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Residents noticed the thefts Friday morning when leaving for work or going about their day, he said.

Police have no description of the person or people responsible.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau suggests the following prevention tips to help avoid airbag fraud and theft:

  • Use a reputable automobile collision repair shop that employs ASE (Automotive Service Excellence)-certified mechanics. 
  • Inspect the invoice to ensure the repair shop purchased the airbag from a manufacturer, dealer or recycler. 
  • If possible, inspect the airbag prior to installation. If new, it should be packaged in a sealed container from the manufacturer. 
  • The trim cover over the steering column should be the same color as the remaining trim interior. If not, it is an indication that the original airbag has been replaced. 
  • When you turn on your vehicle's ignition, a red SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) indicator should light up and flash in the instrument panel display, indicating the airbag system is activated. No SRS light indicates a problem with the airbag system that could result in no airbag activation. 
Sara Bradley January 15, 2014 at 11:09 AM
My airbag was stollen in Reston during the wee hours Tuesday morning 1/14/14. Ugh. Police said there were three others in Reston that night and 10 more in Alexandria when I called them. Could have been more discovered/reported after me.
Jason Spencer January 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM
I've seen a few scattered reports in the Fairfax County police blotter. I'll see if we can get any statistics.
Roberta Whitman January 19, 2014 at 09:09 AM
I assume auto insurance companies will NOT reimburse for this. Wonder what prevention is in the offing from manufacturers. Perhaps make airbag activate when tampered would be nice!

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