(NaturalNews) The U.S. economy - the national unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent and the number of people too discouraged to even look for work is at historical highs - is continuing to flounder, and it's driving some people to turn to rather unconventional ways to make a little money.
One of those ways - the theft of spare tires - is beginning to occur with increased frequency, according to reports. Per CBS Denver:
Thieves are targeting the spare tires that are on the backs of SUVs and under pickup trucks. The wheels are easy to steal because it takes only seconds to get them off a car, and the thieves can sell them fairly easily.
Laura Whipp found out first-hand about this problem.
"When I got to work I realized my spare tire was missing," Whipp told CBS4.
Once they're gone... they're gone
If you've bought a new SUV or pickup truck recently and looked at your window sticker, you might have noticed that full-size spare tires on rims - especially rims that match the other four - are quite expensive, costing hundreds of dollars. So it's no wonder thieves are willing to take the time to remove them from vehicles; just a few a day can net a thief quite a haul.
"When I was leaving that day to go to work, two other tires at the apartment complex where I was at were also missing," Whipp told the CBS affiliate, noting that hers had been stolen after she parked her Jeep Liberty at an apartment complex in Arapahoe County overnight.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department told the affiliate that authorities get complaints every month about spare tires being stolen.
"We did, towards the beginning of the year and at the end of 2012, have a significant spike in spare tire theft," said Chief Vince Line, Public Safety Bureau of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department.
Cops say they think many of the thieves are reselling the wheels on sites like Craigslist. Since tires don't come with serial numbers, it's just about impossible to find a spare once it has been stolen.
"There's very little things that can be done to track, if you will, spare tires, so they are difficult. We're working currently with a number of our partners in the Denver metro area that have similar cases," Line said.
Gang of thieves get lots of tires
A local Chrysler dealer told the affiliate that over the years it has had a few of its spares stolen. The lot usually features dozens of vehicles with outside spare tires.
"The speculation is probably four or five people come in and spend 5 or 10 minutes and get 20 wheels," said Gary McCrary, the Parts Director at Centennial Chrysler Jeep.
But, he added, he now puts locking lug nuts on all incoming Jeeps, and that has served to dramatically reduce thefts. But it's not the end-all, be-all answer.
"It's basically a $60 fix. It's a deterrent, it's not theft proof," McCrary said.
The locking lug nuts have a different pattern than the standard lugs on the spares so it takes a special lug wrench to get them off.
Not all vehicle owners are aware of the method, however.
"The police said that I could have prevented it if I had locking lug nuts. I didn't know about it, so I never got them," said Whipp.
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