Hair extension thefts a growing problem

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Hair extensions can be pricey, and beauty supply stores in the St. Louis region and elsewhere are increasingly being targeted by thieves.

Several St. Louis stores have been victimized over the past year, often by smash-and-grab thieves who smash a car into a store and get away with extensions.

Extensions made of human hair that hasn't been dyed or permed can run $100 to $250 per pack, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They're small and easy to grab and have no codes or serial numbers that can be tracked.

Similar crimes have been reported in places like Las Vegas, Atlanta, Houston and Miami. A shop owner was killed at a Michigan salon in 2011, where 80 hair extensions worth about $10,000 were stolen.

The latest crime in St. Louis occurred just before 4 a.m. Thursday at Forever Young Beauty Supply. The same store was targeted just a month ago.

"Oh no, not again," manager Peaches Burks said. "This can't keep happening."

Burks was still determining what was taken, but guessed tens of thousands of dollars in hair extensions could be gone. The previous smash-and-grab crime there cost the store $18,000 in cleanup and repair and $27,000 in lost hair extensions -- some stolen, some that had to be discarded due to damage.

Also Thursday, a beauty shop not far away was targeted by thieves who rammed the store with a stolen vehicle and got away with handfuls of hair.

Women of all races wear hair extensions, inspired by celebrities like Selena Gomez, Christina Aguilera and BeyoncΘ. But hair can play a major part in identity in black culture, said Neal Lester, an English professor at Arizona State University who has studied African-American culture.

St. Louis hairstylist Leah Butler, 32, said it's common for stylists to charge hundreds of dollars to put extensions in a client's hair. It can take two or more packages of hair to give a woman the look she wants.

Sam Eid, the owner of Kay Beauty Supply in St. Louis, said no arrests have been made since thieves stole more than $8,000 worth of hair extensions from his shop in June.

"That's what's really selling," he said. "If you stop selling those, you may as well close your store."

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