Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - Police are investigating a number of thefts in the metro area in which thieves are making off with rims and wheels and leaving the cars on cinder blocks.

In the last two weeks, thieves hit homes in River Ridge, Algiers, Kenner and Mid-City. Police said it's also been an issue in parishes as far as St. Charles and St. James.

Lex Putnam, general manager of Don Bohn Buick GMC in Harvey, said thieves hit his dealership three times in five days, stealing a dozen tires and rims and leaving the vehicles on cinder blocks.

Putnam said the thieves cut through a back fence in a dark area of the dealership, even as the sheriff's office detail patrolled. He has since directed more lights to the area.

'We've now put locking lugs on every set of aluminum rims that we have, trying to act as a further deterrant,' said Putnam. 'But the bottom line is, they certainly had their way with us this time.'

Putnam said the thieves targeted GMC Sierra Crew Cab pick-ups with 20 inch wheels at his dealership. The wheels run about $3,000 a set.

'I think its because there's a market for them and it's an opportunity for someone to make some easy money, unfortunately at our expense,' said Putnam.

But police hope three recent arrests will help curb the crime.

Around 1 a.m. Friday, a man in the 800 block of Greenwood Drive in New Orleans heard a noise and looked outside to find two men who appeared to be stealing the tires off his neighbors Nissan truck.

The two men ran away, but police say they left a crucial piece of evidence - a truck of their own.

'In the bed of the truck, the suspect truck, were found concrete blocks, lug nuts, and some tools,' said Capt. Henry Dean, commander of NOPD's 3rd District.

The truck also contained wallets with the I.D.s of 22-year-old Justin Barber and 24-year-old Kevin Martin, who have both been charged with theft.

Police later found Barber riding in a different vehicle, a few blocks away, with 23-year-old Johnathan Edwards. He's charged with accessory to theft.

Dean said police have had their eye on Barber for some time. The three have all been arrested.

'Is this the end of our problems? Oh no, it's not,' said Dean. '[But] I think it's going to make a big dent in the problems we've been having.'

Police are still investigating whether the men are tied to other instances.

Police said the crime has been on their radar for the last year. They say higher-end trucks and SUVs are often the targets because their wheels can go for a hefty price. They advise you to protect yourself using locking lug nuts.

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