Nabe worn down by tire thieves

A pinching pit crew has been leaving cars owners flat, police said this week.

A group of tire and rim thieves have been targeting streets in Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Midwood and Manhattan Beach for weeks, swiping rubber shoes off seven vehicles in the last month alone, Captain George Mastrokostas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, explained.

“We’re having a problem with tire thieves,” he told 61st Precinct Community Council members Wednesday, adding that the precinct has the undue distinction of being one of three in the city where the thieves are flexing their tire-swiping muscles. The other two are in Queens, a neighboring borough.

“Right now we are talking with the Queens precincts to see what they’re doing to combat the problem,” he said. “We think that there are multiple individuals in the crew — possibly 18 people — but they’re telling us it’s a lot more.”

But don’t expect to see a Nascar-style crew working on these cars with pricey air-compressed jacks and battery-powered screw guns.

These guys are quite low-tech — using bricks to prop up cars and a little elbow grease to loosen the lug nuts, Mastrokostas has learned.

Yet they’re quite good at what they do. There have been cases where one man was seen removing four tires from a car in a matter of minutes.

Then there’s the slow rollers: thieves who come down a street, loosen the lug nuts, then go around the corner, wait a few minutes, and come back and remove the tires.

“We had a witness to one of these tire thefts,” Mastrokostas said. “He told us that he was going to call 911, but waited because he was so fascinated as to how they were doing it.”

As of this writing, the tire thieves remained at large.

But as the hunt continues, cops are making strides in nabbing those who break into cars.

Just last week, police arrested a man found smashing his way into vehicles parked in Manhattan Beach. The suspect, who was not named, had been arrested four times for similar break-ins.

All told, 19 people have been arrested for breaking into automobiles in the 61st Precinct this year. Over 130 car break-ins have been reported since January 1, Mastrokostas explained, adding that he and his officers are continuing to educate people about removing valuables from their vehicles overnight.

In recent weeks, two $2,000 handbags, a $5,000 Cartier watch and $1,000 worth of clothing were stolen from area cars, along with an assortment of wallets, iPods, cell phones and credit cards.

“People have to remember, your car is not a safe,” Mastrokostas said.

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