Police see flurry of Honda airbag thefts as criminals aim to resell on black market

Criminals throughout the country are stealing airbags out of relatively new Honda cars for apparent resale to questionable repair shops or unsuspecting online customers, according to police records and USA TODAY research.

Law enforcement authorities in several major markets, including Miami, New York City and the Washington, D.C. area, have noticed a flurry of recent thefts.

The pattern is difficult to quantify because the intensely local nature of component theft investigations means no national data is available. The FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say they don’t track airbag thefts.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) estimates that about 50,000 airbags are stolen annually. But the group is not actually tracking the numbers to spot trends such as why recent-model Hondas might be at higher risk.

In general, though, airbags are a lucrative target for thieves. They’re expensive – with prices sometimes topping $1,000 – and easy to portray as legitimate.

Criminals typically gain entry to a vehicle parked in an open lot, cut open the steering wheel and extract the device. Other airbags in the vehicle are rarely targeted, possibly because they’re less likely to deploy and thus less likely to be in need of replacement.

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