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Petty car part thievery: are you at risk?

Think your car is safe from accessory thieves? Think again.

Someone had the nerve to swipe my special-order, aftermarket clear side markers from my BMW 325 Ci last week while the car was parked outside in a valet lot in Beverly Hills while I was having dinner. Not only did the d-bag (think French for shower) pry off the lenses from both sides, but he -- or she -- even took the trouble to unplug and steal my special stealth bulbs (which appear silver, but blink orange). Seriously, folks. How lame.

It got me thinking. Could someone make a living by swiping tiny little car parts here and there? If purchased at retail, those lenses cost as much as $50 a set, and the bulbs are about $30 a pair. But on eBay, you can find the markers for about $3 each, and the bulbs for about $10 a pair. And those are for new parts. So, figuring that used parts would sell for less, that means someone could get maybe $10 or $15 tops for something that it cost me nearly $90 to replace.

At first thought, there doesn't seem to be much of a financial incentive to take the time to steal something that could yield so little cash. But in my case, the parts were taken in an area known as "restaurant row." As the name implies, the street is lined with restaurants on both sides for about five straight blocks. So, if one car gets hit up at each restaurant for $10 worth of parts, times 10 to 15 restaurants, it's not a bad return for simply walking up and down the street for a couple of hours.

Obviously, I'm not condoning stealing stuff from people's cars. But it apparently proves fruitful for some, even if said assailants should be beaten with bamboo canes. It also reminds us that, no matter how advanced anti-theft technology has become, our cars still remain vulnerable to lesser attacks. And while it could have been much worse, it was still a royal pain-in-the-butt.