Anyone who’s lived in California will advise you to never leave anything of value out and visible inside a parked car. That’s just an open invitation for a car thief to break in. But now it seems thieves are going beyond ransacking a car’s interior: A San Francisco woman returned to her Toyota Prius only to find the car disassembled and its main battery pack stolen.
Multiple reports say that Marjory Kaplan parked her 2017 Prius just down the block from her apartment in Pacific Heights. Upon returning to her vehicle, she found that someone had stolen the Prius’ mid-mounted central battery pack, the one that supplies power to the hybrid-electric system, and not the auxiliary functions under the hood.
"You know, you go looking for your car and you know what you car looks like. It didn't look like my car. It looked like a jalopy car. It looked different. It looked disheveled," Kaplan explained to ABC7 News. "They took the seat out, cut all the wires and removed the battery, which I understand weighs 180 pounds.”
Hi from Pacific Heights where a woman came out to find her PRIUS had been disassembled and car BATTERY stolen. (As a fellow Prius owner I didn’t even know this could happen!) @abc7newsbayarea pic.twitter.com/l6DBO1gKcF— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) August 25, 2019
Battery pack thefts have been on the rise since ABC7 News first reported on the increase back in 2015. The packs are resold on the black market, which harks back to the days when clever thieves stole catalytic converters off new vehicles to extract the expensive precious metals found inside.
But what's different about this theft is that no windows or doors were forcefully damaged during the break-in. Rather, a small rear window was tactfully removed to gain access. This is a clear indication that the battery thieves are professional and know what they’re doing.
“It’s very organized, yeah, it’s very organized,” Jeff Garcia, a Toyota mechanic, told KRON4. Garcia said his shop is in the middle of repairing four other Prius cars whose batteries were stolen in a similar manner. “It’s not just the battery they’re stealing, they’re damaging all the harnesses and everything else around there. Seatbelts are being cut.”
"Had I been lucky enough just to have the window broken and the change taken," Kaplan continued. "I would have been very happy."
As a result of the battery theft, she’s reportedly facing a $5,000 to $10,000 repair bill.
A street-view security camera was nearby, but unfortunately it was pointed the wrong way, so Kaplan doesn't expect much to happen. She also plans to sell her car after the repair and to depend more on public transportation.