Thieves often surprise police with the nature of their thefts, but a recent rise in hair thefts has left criminal defense experts scratching their heads.
According to a recent report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, hair thieves across the country have begun targeting stores that sell high-end weaves made of human hair.
With a recent increase in demand for weaves and wigs, the value of the human hair market has exploded in the past few years. Quality hair can retail for up to $200 per bundle, and the average hair recipient needs at least two to three bundles for a quality look.
Most of the high-end hair is imported from Malaysia and India, and is known in the hair industry as “Remy” hair. This line of hair has a more natural look than synthetic alternatives, and can apparently be used multiple times before it must be thrown away.
Sources indicate that hair weave’s increase in popularity is partially due to the influence of reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian, whose lengthy locks receive almost as much attention as her other noteworthy physical attributes.
According to the manager of one beauty salon in Atlanta, young women now find lengthy hair weaves quite fashionable, and that hair lengths of up to 30 inches are in hot demand.
Unfortunately for fashion-conscious fans of the product, most premium hair is imported, which subjects the hair to the price fluctuations suffered by overseas goods.
Thus, the high costs of fuel, the declining value of the dollar, and increased global demand have all played a role in inflating the price of a bundle of human hair.
In Atlanta this spring, small-scale thefts at local beauty supply stores led to a net loss in more than $100,000 worth of human hair.
Other major cities have seen thousands of dollars in hair theft, as well, including Chicago, Houston, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
Recent weeks have seen a rise in violent thefts, which raise more concern in communities where simple smash and grab thefts used to be the norm. Violent methods from hair burglars have included ramming trucks into storefronts and, in one Michigan case, killing the store owner.
Salons typically order hair from a number of different vendors, but they usually don’t keep a large amount of hair in their stores, which has reduced the effect of the thefts to some degree.
Store owners have also grown more suspicious of independent vendors who attempt to sell hair door-to-door. Salon owners suspect that many of these independent solicitors may have purchased the hair through illegal channels.
While the hair thefts are a bizarre crime, police and retailers are taking the matter very seriously.
Some Atlanta-area salons have installed 24-hour security measures such as cameras and watchmen to protect their stores, and police have promised to more aggressively track and arrest these opportunistic thieves.