Investigators say thefts may be part of larger crime ring

Thefts may be part of larger crime ring

It's a case puzzling area detectives -- tires and wheels being stolen in the middle of the night from car dealers and tractor-trailer companies.

Detectives in Bristol, Tennessee and Washington County, Virginia are working with investigators from several states to piece together the puzzle.

In June, 44 tires were taken off of 11 cars at a Bristol, Tennessee car dealership. Police say thieves cut a hole in a fence to get in and spent about three hours on the scene in the middle of the night, taking tires and wheels from a variety of cars and trucks. Click here to view photos.

In early July, 50 tires were taken from tractor-trailers at a lot in Washington County, Virginia.

"Obviously it would take a large vehicle to haul that many tires and wheels out, so we feel it's a fairly organized operation," says Washington County, Virginia Captain Byron Ashbrook.

Detectives believe the people responsible are not local, but may be part of a larger crime ring. "I don't believe someone with local knowledge would have taken that much time and that much effort to access the car lot from that area," explains Bristol, Tennessee Detective Brian Hess.

The investigation includes several similar instances in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Detectives say there's a good chance several people were involved. "This is definitely a two, three four-person job. You're not going to lift a 100-pound tire and rims over a six-foot tall fence, especially by yourself, where there are 44 [tires]," explains Hess.

Detectives tell us wheels and tires can be quite expensive, and thieves may be selling the stolen goods on the internet or at auctions. "You can get pretty good money off some of these higher-end rims and vehicles," explains Hess.

Now detectives are working to set up a meeting with investigators from all over the area. "The communication and sharing information is the key to solving cases like this," adds Ashbrook.

Police hope getting the details from all of the cases will help put an end to the thefts.

While gathering facts we found out another local car dealer was targeted by thieves. Tuesday night or Wednesday morning someone stole the grill and lights off of a brand-new truck in the lot at a local Toyota dealership.

Detectives say they don't believe this incident is connected to the wheel and tire thefts.

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