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List of Manchester wheel theft victims grows, large apartment complexes and imported cars appear to be targets

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 14. 2018 12:38PM
Mill West resident Abel Emanuelli said the thieves shattered a window and stole the wheels from his fiancee's 2016 Honda Accord. A second set of tires was stolen Wednesday from a vehicle at the Manchester apartment complex. (COURTESY)

A Manchester woman found her car on blocks Wednesday morning in her parking spot at Amoskeag Terrace Condominiums. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER — Police said Thursday they know of 13 cars that have had their wheels and expensive rims stolen in the last three weeks, with all of the thefts taking place at large apartment or condominium complexes located throughout the city.

In many cases, windows of locked vehicles — nearly all late-model imports — were smashed so the thieves could retrieve socket keys in order to loosen and remove lug nuts, Lt. Paul Thompson said.

Police believe most thefts took place between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. after thieves scouted the area, Thompson said. He urged any early risers who might be jogging or walking a dog to keep an eye out.

“This is one of the times we’re asking for the public’s help,” Thompson said. “Don’t hesitate to call.” The New Hampshire Union Leader first reported the crimes on Thursday, after victims started posting photos and complaints on social media.

On Thursday, Mill West resident Abel Emanuelli said the thieves shattered a window and stole the wheels from the 2016 Honda Accord he bought his fiancee for an engagement present. They left the car on milk crates, he said. The theft took place about 3 a.m. on March 21.

“I work my butt off all the time, trying to live and take care of my family, and someone comes and takes stuff that doesn’t belong to them” said Emanuelli, an Army National Guardsman of 12 years who was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s plenty of places (for the thieves) to work.

“You feel violated. This ruins your day,” he said.

Map showing the locations of the thefts is below:

He said a security camera captured some images of the theft. It took 13 minutes to break his window and steal all four wheels, he said.

On Wednesday, another car at Mill West had its tires stripped and stolen. That operation only took seven minutes because the vehicle did not have locking lugs, he said.

Emanuelli said the theft and damage to his fiancee’s car added up to $5,000; his out-of-pocket cost was limited to the $500 insurance deductible.

Thompson said police have been in contact with the National Insurance Crime Bureau and other area agencies to see if similar theft sprees have been reported elsewhere.

He said the wheels can easily be placed on cars with the same number of lugs, increasing their appeal to thieves. Manufacturers do not put identification numbers on tires and most wheels, making it difficult to trace them, he said.

Thompson noted that the thieves are hitting all parts of the city. Most of the cars have similar-size tires and rims, he said.

He said owners of expensive rims should consider removing the lug-nut socket key from their car. Most owners keep the socket key in their glove box, making it easy for the thieves to find, Thompson said.

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