Car thieves eyeing new, fuel-efficient targets?

Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 21:52:24-05

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - Car thieves may have a new target in their sights -- fuel-efficient vehicles like the Toyota Prius.

The last time Palomar College student Scarlett Stanger saw her Toyota Prius, she had parked it in her garage along Windyridge Gln in Escondido on Tuesday afternoon. She left the garage door open before going inside for about 30 minutes to wrap up an assignment.

"I walked out and it was gone. The garage was empty; I felt scared and confused," said Stanger.

Missing from the garage was her 2005 Prius and her backpack with credit cards inside.

Stanger also felt a bit upset with herself.

"My keys were left in my backpack, which was left in my car," said Stanger.

Stanger wasn't the only frustrated Prius owner.

The day before -- and a few miles away at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Escondido -- a thief nabbed a black Prius while its owner was working in the restaurant.

Experts say Prius thefts are unusual, with the hybrid vehicles owning some of the lowest theft rates of any vehicle.

Additionally, experts say demand for Prius parts, which usually can't be used for other cars, is not large.

So why might thieves now be targeting the hybrids?

Although Escondido police say they haven't noticed a spike in Prius thefts, they will be looking into whether the two thefts are linked.

Auto theft experts told 10News the thieves may be making off with the cars for the ride, not the parts.

In the Bay Area, crooks recently targeted the hybrids for their batteries.

Meanwhile, there is now a sense of unease for Stanger.

"It makes me feel vulnerable," said Stanger.

On Thursday afternoon, Stanger learned her Prius was recovered in a Temecula parking lot.