A crime wave is occurring - thieves are targeting SUVs and stealing the third-row seats. On August 29, residents of the western San Fernando Valley in California were warned that "thieves have been breaking into sport/utility vehicles and removing the third-row seats," according to the Los Angeles Daily News. In this instance, the culprits were targeting General Motors SUVs, stealing the seats to resell.
Online news items regarding these thefts go back at least two years with a recent surge over the past few months. Targeted areas include the Costa Mesa, Calif. area in Orange County, and back in 2010, a rash of third-row SUV "seat-stealings" occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well.
According to the Daily News, "Police suggested that vehicle owners use bicycle-style cable locks to secure the third-row seats. They also said SUV owners should back the vehicle against a solid object to block the rear doors - possibly deterring thieves."
According to CBS News, the reason behind the thefts is profit - third-row seats sell for more than $1,000 each. One set of thieves was arrested in February for allegedly stealing approximately $100,000 of seats.
For fleet managers with SUV fleets - this could be an expensive problem. A quick search of eBay Motors showed at least five sets of third-row seats for sale, ranging from $300 to $450 each. Many fleets remove the third-row seats, storing them until it's time to remarket the vehicle. If this is the case, be sure your seats are stored securely. Some fleets may want to consider selling the seats upon removal on Craigslist.com or Ebay Motors, removing the temptation for thieves.
Protect your SUVs. Per police suggestion, backing vehicles up against a solid object can help deter potential thieves. Several online resources recommend simply not purchasing a vehicle with third-row seating, but for those where this isn't an option, some suggest utilizing a cable lock to lock the seat in place, further deterring theft.
Has this happened to you, or anyone you know? Are you already doing something to protect your "back seats"? Let me know!