By Jonathon Hardison
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Are truck tailgates the new copper for thieves looking to make a quick buck?
Birmingham police arrested three men suspected of stealing tailgates throughout the Birmingham metro area.
David Smith, Jason Dowling, and Roy Mitchell, all of Leeds, are all charged with receiving stolen property.
Police say the three men stole at least 27 tailgates in the last month or so from at least six different cities including Leeds, Hoover, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, and the UAB campus.
"A lot of it was crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Johnny Williams. "We believe they just found a couple of trucks and they checked the tailgates to see if they were locked. If they weren't locked, they managed to take them from the vehicles and sell them for scrap."
An employee at the Worley Brothers scrap yard called police when they got suspicious of the suspects trying to sell the tailgates here, and now police are cautioning drivers to lock up your tailgate if you can. But many trucks don't have a locking gate.
"Well you can't lock the tailgate," said one pickup driver in Homewood. "Well if I had a camper top you could lock it, put this one just has a pull handle."
"I had no idea, I wouldn't even think about it," said another driver. "I don't have a lock on it or anything. I guess I'll go get me a master key and lock now."
The thieves were only getting about $50 per tailgate at the scrap yard, but drivers are paying as much as $2,000 to replace them.
"I've never heard of this before," Sgt. Williams said. "As I said, they're constantly reinventing ways or coming up with ways of making money, so this if the first I've heard of it."
If your tailgate was stolen recently and you think it may be one of the ones police have recovered, Birmingham police are asking you to call your local police department first, and they can coordinate with Birmingham's burglary unit to see if your tailgate is one of the ones they've got.