There is a new crime alert for you if you own an SUV - thieves are breaking into vehicles to steal the third row of seats. The seats then turn up for sale online on sites like eBay and it's a costly fix for victims.
The thieves who broke into Katrina Whitnall's car were so smooth, it took her days to realize something was wrong.
"I feel so violated that somebody was in my driveway, in my car, at my home," said Whitnall. The third row seat of her Chevy Tahoe was missing. "I kinda noticed the seats weren't back there, so I thought my husband had pulled them out of the car." You'd think it would be hard not to notice but, "I had asked him, 'oh you took the seats out of the car?' And he was like, 'no I thought you did.'"
Thieves had done it to them in the middle of night. They discretely punch out the door lock with a screwdriver. Authorities estimate it takes less than a minute.
"The factory alarm, they know if they punch that keyhole, they can get right in," said Whitnall. They then use the tailgate lift button for easy access.
Officials say it is something new to Bakersfield and third row theft is on the rise nationwide. YouTube video shows thieves stealing the third row seat bench from a Cadillac Escalade at a southern California car lot. The dealership reports the seat was found at a parts shop.
The Bakersfield Police Department received 24 reports of third row theft this year alone.
I can't speak for every suspect that involves himself in this type of offense, but we need to take into consideration that the replacement cost is very high," said Sgt. Uriel Pacheco.
The seats end up on sites like Craigslist and eBay, selling for 600 to 700 dollars. Officers recover the stolen seats occasionally, but say there's no way to trace back the stolen goods.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
"A good practice is engrave the vehicle identification number on the detachable part, or even your license plate number," said Sgt. Pacheco. Owners can also use a bike lock to chain the seat down or, if you're not using it, leave the seat at home.
The seats are in demand by people whose old seats wear out and by the victims of theft who have to replace what was taken.