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Police looking for seat thieves

The third row in large SUVs has become a hot commodity because of the high cost at dealerships.

December 08, 2007|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — A surge in thefts of third-row seats from large vehicles in November has police on the lookout for suspects and has forced an increase in police presence in malls this holiday season.

Police recorded eight November incidents in which a third-row seat was stolen from a vehicle, an increase from three in October, one in September and none in August, Burbank Sgt. Carlos Gomez said.

“Any time the holiday season approaches, people are more strapped for cash,” he said.

“Plus, it’s getting darker earlier.”

The combination has contributed to the rise in stolen seats, which can fetch thousands of dollars at swap meets, body shops and on the Internet. Plus, they are easy to remove from cars, Gomez said.

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The seat thefts are not particular to one location — they have occurred at malls and in front of homes, but certain cars have been targeted, he said.

“GMC full-size SUVs and Chevrolet vehicles like Suburbans are the most common,” Gomez said. “These are high-end cars.”

Workers at General Motors and Chevrolet body shops around Southern California all admitted how easy it is to steal the seats.

“They’re attached to the bottom floor, so all you have to do is release a button and they pop right out,” said Eferen Montes, who works in the parts department at GMC in Glendale.

“We do get quite a few calls of people who have had their seats stolen.”

Contributing to the rise of third-row seat thefts is GMC’s policy to make seats available only from the current year, Montes said.

“If someone wants a third-row seat from a car from another year, we have to build it from the ground up,” he said. “And that gets really expensive.”

Buying the seats through third-party places, like upholstery shops and swap meets, where they are worth between $1,500 and $2,000, is much less expensive, said Mike Gonzalez, who works at a Chevrolet body shop in Los Angeles.

In his body shop, Gonzalez sees third-row seats arrive there “piece by piece” as people come in looking for them, though he declined to say where the seats he sells come from.

Alex Salazar, director of service for the Los Angeles Chevrolet body shop, said his department has been touched by the theft as well.

“We’ve had two stolen from our stock,” he said. “Junkyards want to buy them and body shops sell them. A new [Chevrolet] seat could sell for up to $4,200.”

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