Thieves find targets stranded on Indianapolis highways

Broken down vehicles are a target for a growing trend in theft.
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Police are fighting a new type of crime on the highway.

Officers say criminals are taking emergency signals as their signal to move in on an abandoned vehicle. The thieves pretend to be fixing the disabled car, but their motive is much more sinister.

"Remove the tires and wheels and leave it stranded there," said ISP Sgt. Rich Myers.

So poor drivers like Bob Lardon, who's already having a bad day, could have an even worse one. Eyewitness News found Bob at I-70 and the Shadeland Avenue exit, changing a tire during the evening rush hour.

"That somebody would come along and steal your wheels while you're broken down? Pretty sorry," Lardon said. "But when times get tough, everything gets tougher. People do things they don't normally do."

State police say it's happened three times in the last four days on a small stretch of I-70 on the east side of Indianapolis.

Now police are doing something they don't usually do. Officers usually stop to check on motorists at risk while fixing their car, but now when they see someone changing a tire, Myers says officers may "check some ID, check some registration. Make sure you're supposed to be with that vehicle."

The law says you've got 24 hours to remove your stranded vehicle from the highway or police will have it towed. But inside of I- 465, you've got two hours to move it yourself.

Tires are an easy target.

"Could be anywhere from $500-1,600 or $1,700 or so, depending on the kind of rims you have," said Chris Houser, a salesman at Goodyear Tire downtown.

Houser was recently a victim of crime while parked on 38th Street.

"They stole the rims and, for some reason, they stole the car, like two days later. Not the brightest criminals, I'd steal it with the tires on," Houser said.