PORTLAND – Airbag thefts appear to be on the rise in the Portland Metro area, according to police.
Then, the stolen airbags are getting sold to people who are illegally rebuilding and reselling salvaged vehicles.
One victim, who didn’t want her identity revealed, told KGW her airbag was stolen while her car was parked in her own driveway.
"We were one of three over the weekend and then there had been several, somewhere in the 20s since the beginning of the year," she said.
Portland police said illegal “chop shops,” as they’re called, seem to be stocking up on airbags. And when the criminals rebuild and re-sell salvaged cars, the vehicles can turn out to be extremely dangerous.
“An average consumer's not going to know," said Jeff Becker, with the Portland Police Bureau.
He recommended that consumers try to ensure they’re getting a reliable used car by purchasing it from a dealership and possibly getting a Car Fax to inspect the vehicle’s history. He said it’s also good advice to check the car for messy tool marks indicating a part may have been ripped from another vehicle. And buyers should have a professional inspect the car, too.
"It's an absolute safety risk with airbags. Number one, you should never tamper with an air bag. Number two, you're probably not going to know it until it's too late,” Becker warned.
Airbags currently retail for $1,000 to $2,000. Stolen bags net just a couple hundred dollars for criminals.