At first glance, the YouTube surveillance footage capturing the April 2011 break-in at Hair Divas Distributors seems like it could be the start to any routine burglary as four hooded crooks kick in the front door of a San Leandro, California-based beauty business just after sunrise.
It’s not until halfway through the video that it becomes obvious that this isn’t just any typical heist. The footage shows the group bypass the cash register and head straight for the rear of the store, quickly scooping up armfuls of the store’s most expensive human-hair wigs and extensions before heading back out the door.
In less than three minutes, owner Anne Davis was robbed of nearly $60,000 worth of merchandise before police even arrived at the scene, she recalls. One burglar even had a spare moment to stop and smile for the surveillance camera on his way out. “It was absolutely devastating,” she says. “They cleaned me out.” Unfortunately, Davis’ story is far from unique.
In the past year, weave thieves have led a string of hair heists at beauty businesses around the country, making headlines by stealing up to tens of thousands of dollars worth of stores’ most prized human-hair merchandise and in some cases carrying out violence.
The thefts hit their peak in the spring and summer of 2011 when burglars cased several beauty businesses in Atlanta and its suburbs, stealing nearly $100,000 worth of hair and, at times, violently. During that same period, a salon in a suburb outside of Houston was robbed of $150,000 worth of hair weaves, and the doors of a Chicago beauty supply were pried open by thieves who stole about $90,000 worth of hair. A shop owner in Dearborn, Michigan, was even shot to death during a robbery of more than 80 packages of hair extensions worth $10,000. Since then, the shocking amount of hair being stolen has seemed to taper, but the crimes themselves remain prevalent.