Back in the 1970s and prior, stealing hubcaps was a petty criminal pastime. This was way before custom wheels and rims became so popular. At that time, hubcaps were made of metal and added value to the car. Also, they were fairly easy to steal and sell. That trend faded out as automobile manufacturers started replacing metal hubcaps with plastic ones and the market for used hubcaps deflated. Today, hubcaps are rarely stolen, unless they’re stolen from a classic car outfitted with particularly nice ones.
For the most part, hubcap theft isn’t a big problem anymore.
But as the market for stolen hubcaps dwindled, a market for a different stolen automobile accessory grew, and that accessory was the hood ornament.
Hood Ornament Theft: A Brief History
According to a Washington Post article from way back in 1987, reports had been coming in to area police of hood ornaments being stolen off individuals’ cars and off cars at auto dealerships. Some kids liked to put them on chains and wear them as impromptu jewelry. Around that time, Mike D of the hip-hop band Beastie Boys began wearing a Volkswagen “VW” hood ornament on a chain as a send-up of the trend. This apparently resulted in a rash of thefts of VW hood emblems.
Replacement ornaments at the time cost around $20, and indeed, some young people claimed to have bought their hood ornaments legitimately. Still, it wasn’t uncommon for owners of Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, and Porsches to notice their hood ornament missing the morning after a weekend night.
Rolls Royce Opts Out of This Trend
Luxury car manufacturer Rolls Royce decided they didn’t want to be part of this trend, and set out to make their hood ornament, known as the Spirit of Ecstasy (a winged, fairy-like being) difficult or impossible to steal. And eventually they were able to do so. Starting in 2004, the Rolls Royce Spirit of Ecstasy was designed to retract like the head of a startled turtle if someone touched it. A tiny trap door opens underneath the ornament and it retracts in a split second, before anyone would have a chance to remove it. Here’s a video of this anti-theft device in action:
Other Types of Anti-Theft Devices
Most anti-theft devices aren’t as definitive as Rolls Royce’s, but they’re widely used, well beyond the doors of the retail store with RFID-reading “gates” at the entrances and exits. Video surveillance could be considered an anti-theft tactic, and it’s widely used in public areas, parking garages, and school campuses, for example.
Preventing theft requires a comprehensive approach.
The consumer market is starting to have anti-theft devices available for personal items like luggage, keys, and phones. For example, “Tile” is a $25 tracking device that can go on a suitcase, keychain, or even your dog’s collar. When connected via Bluetooth to your phone, you can use an app to help you know if you’re getting “warmer” or “colder” when you’re trying to locate your missing item. A device called TrackR Bravo can be used in much the same way, and will make your phone chime if you leave something behind.
Unfortunately, if something can be stolen, somebody probably has stolen it at some point. Most of us don’t have to worry about hood ornament theft, but maybe we’ve experienced theft of something else valuable, like a bike, jewelry, or an iPad. Posting a stolen item with us creates a digital fingerprint for your item, and many law enforcement organizations regularly use the web to try to identify stolen property that they recover. It’s one more step you can take toward getting your property back, and it’s free, so there’s no reason not to try it.
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