A new car dealership on Hwy. 531 was the victim some time Sunday evening, when thieves made their way onto the lot after dark, jacked up 19 vehicles and stole the tires and wheels, leaving the vehicles on blocks.
Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper said more than $50,000 worth of tires and wheels were taken.
"We came close to running across them last night," Cropper said. "We got a call on a rental trailer that had been parked in an unusual place. We sent an officer out and got a license plate off the trailer."
Not long after, Cropper said the trailer was moved to another location.
"This group is very, very organized," said the chief. "One guy will go in and mark the cars by folding in the mirrors on the ones they want to take the tires off."
Reportedly the group has air wrenches to remove the lug nuts.
"They cut the lines to knock the lights off the parking lot," he added.
"We got a couple of breaks on this," he continued. "We've tracked down who leased the trailer and we've got BOLOs (Be On the Look Out) out, and the Marshal's service is looking."
Cropper said the group has been known to hit two dealerships within a 50-mile radius in a short period of time.
"Then they go silent for a couple of months, and then they'll start again," he said.
Cropper said when the group hit a dealership in Stonewall, they stole the tires and wheels off more than 70 new Ford pick-up trucks.
Louisiana State Analytical & Fusion Exchange (LA-SAFE) said the theft of tires and rims is at an almost epidemic proportion. Recently, three incidents have caught the attention of law enforcement.
On March 25, a Gonzales, dealership was the target of tire and rim theft. The incident occurred late at night or in the early morning and resulted in the theft of almost $30,000 worth of merchandise.
In Natchitoches on the same night another dealership lost approximately $100,000 worth of wheels.
A Kenner retail and service business reportedly had nearly $90,000 worth of tires and rims stolen.
Thefts of this magnitude have occurred all over the Gulf South, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The value of stolen merchandise and criminal damage ranges from a couple thousand dollars to almost $100,000.
"Our Fusion center, LA-SAFE, is an effective and efficient tool to exchange information and intelligence, maximize resources, and improve the ability of local law enforcement to fight crime by analyzing data from a variety of sources," said Jenny Reynolds, GOHSEP Regional Coordinator and Fusion Center Liaison Officer (FLO) for Region 7. "It's a collaborative effort of multiple agencies that turn raw data into actionable knowledge that's then distributed to numerous local, state and federal agency representatives."
Reynolds said, in this case, FLOs from multiple states gathered information from law enforcement on similar cases and submitted it into LA-SAFE.
"They've put together a vast assessment of what type of organized theft ring this is, the characteristics, patterns and potential connections to certain entities, known criminals and more," she said. "While these other crimes have not yet been linked to a specific group, all indicators point to an organized effort with possible connections to the Houston, Texas area."
Suspicious activity (potentially criminal and/or terrorism related) should be reported by the public and emergency responders to 225-925-4192 or by visiting www.la-safe.org.