Eastpointe experiences one-night spike in tailgate theft

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 13, 2013

EASTPOINTE — They take only seconds to remove and, when sold at auction, they bring in a pretty penny.

Tailgate thefts haven’t hit most metro Detroit communities as hard as catalytic converter thefts, but it is on the rise, and one night last month, Eastpointe saw a spike in a matter of hours.

On the morning of Jan. 23, the Eastpointe Police Department took three similar reports from truck owners who awakened to discover the tailgates on their trucks were missing.

The first report was taken at 6:30 a.m., when a resident in the 24000 block of Brittany notified police that, during the night, someone had stolen the tailgate from the 2002 F-150 truck parked in her driveway. She had been borrowing the truck from a friend and told police that, when she parked it in her driveway at 7 p.m. the previous night, the tailgate on her friend’s truck was in place.

She had woken up to her dogs barking at 4 a.m., but when she looked outside, she didn’t see anything. The police looked for fingerprints and damage to the back end of the truck and found neither.

In a separate incident, police said early that same morning, they took a report in the lobby of the Police Department from a man who reported that he had parked his 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup truck in his driveway overnight and discovered in the morning that the tailgate was missing. He did not hear or see anything suspicious during the night.

Just a half-hour after the first tailgate larceny was called in, police took a third report. A resident had parked his 2005 Chevy Silverado in his driveway around 7 p.m. Jan. 22, and when he went out to it at 7 a.m. Jan. 23, he discovered his tailgate had been stolen during the night.

Detective Lt. Dave Ernatt, of the Eastpointe Police Department, who provided the reports, was unable to be reached for further comment at press time. Acting Chief Scott Bourgeois said he was not familiar enough with the incidents to speak on them and did not know if any other similar incidents had occurred in the city.

“I don’t feel comfortable giving too much information without looking at the specific reports,” Bourgeois said. “Usually, if there is an increase in a particular type of crime, the guys will tell me, but I have not heard anything about the larceny of tailgates.”

Police Chief James Berlin said tailgate theft hasn’t been an issue in Roseville yet, but he is aware of it.

“We haven’t had a lot of them here, but I have been hearing of them happening in other communities,” Berlin said. “It’s a relatively new thing in this area, but crimes like this tend to happen in spurts.”

It does seem to be a growing problem in many areas across the country.

“They are so easy to steal and they are worth a lot of money,” said Steve Petersen, founder and CEO of Jimmi’ Jammer, an Arizona-based company that makes locking devices for trucks. “If they want to sell them real quick, they can get probably $200-$300, and if they do it by auction, they’ll get $500-$600, usually, and sometimes more.”

The cost to replace a tailgate varies from model to model. The average cost is $1,000, and for many people, that high price tag is reason enough not to ask many questions when they find a like-new one online for half the price.

Petersen hears stories about tailgate thefts all the time; many times, he said, it’s done by someone or a group of people who are just looking to make easy money, but not always. Sometimes it’s a fellow truck owner looking to replace a damaged tailgate.

“I talked to one man who went into the mall, and when he came out, there’s an old, beat-up tailgate laying there in the back of his truck and his nice, new, shiny one of the same color is missing,” Petersen said.

“A truck’s tailgate is often the first thing to get damaged in an accident, or just from everyday use, and when it’s time to replace it, someone can easily find a matching gate without damage on someone else’s truck.”

The high cost of replacement and the steady increase in tailgate theft led Petersen’s company to develop The Gate Keeper, a locking device that prevents tailgates from being lifted without the use of a tool. He said the device is available for all makes and models of trucks and can be installed in minutes by anyone who knows how to turn a wrench.

The Gate Keeper, which Petersen proudly boasts is made in the United States, is sold online for $25 at www.trucksecurity.com but he also maintains the website www.jimmijammer.com, where diagrams and pictures display the ease of tailgate theft and how his product, or the tailgate handle locks sold by other companies, can prevent it. 

Lori Conarton, of the Insurance Institute of Michigan, said tailgate theft hasn’t become a huge problem in Michigan yet.

“We don’t have any statistics on tailgate theft — it hasn’t really become a rampant problem in Michigan yet,” Conarton said. “It hasn’t gotten as big as catalytic converter theft yet, but just like with catalytic converters, anyone who has comprehensive coverage, or full coverage, can file a claim if their tailgate is stolen.”

Conarton also shared information on a local hotline where people can call and report information about vehicle theft, stolen tailgates and more, possibly for a reward. The number to call is (800) 242-4328.

“If anybody knows any information on the person or group of people that are doing this, they can call in and possibly get a reward for that,” she said.