The thieves pulled the iron bars out of the windows, outsmarted the motion detector that would have triggered a burglar alarm and did not give the safe or cash register a second look. “Whoever did it knew exactly what they wanted,” said Lisa Amosu, whose salon was burglarized. The thieves pulled the iron bars out of the windows, outsmarted the motion detector that would have triggered a burglar alarm and did not give the safe or cash register a second look. Lisa Amosu, a Houston salon owner, gluing hair onto a client. She valued human hair recently taken from the salon at $150,000. Instead they went straight for what was most valuable: human hair. By the time the bandits at the My Trendy Place salon in Houston were finished, they had stolen $150,000 worth of the shop’s most prized type, used for silky extensions. The break-in was part of a recent trend of thefts, some involving violence, of a seemingly plentiful material.
During the past two months alone, robbers in quest of human hair have killed a beauty shop supplier in Michigan and carried out heists nationwide in which they have made off with tens of thousands of dollars of hair at a time. “I heard about it from a couple of different supply companies and customers who said: ‘Guard your inventory. There’s a rash of this going on,’ ” said Lisa Amosu, the owner of My Trendy Place. “Whoever did it knew exactly what they wanted. They didn’t even bother with the synthetic hair.” Once stolen, the hair is typically sold on the street or on the Internet, including eBay, shop owners and the police say.
The most expensive hair type — and the one in highest demand by thieves and paying customers alike — is remy hair, which unlike most other varieties is sold with its outermost cuticle layer intact. This allows it to look more natural and to last longer without tangling. Remy hair from Indian women is the most popular. But remy hair extensions can cost as much as $200 per package and the average person requires at least two packages. Hundreds of dollars more, and at times thousands, are spent at hair salons to have the extensions attached, often by sewing. In addition to the $150,000 Houston robbery this month, thieves have recently taken $10,000 in hair from a San Diego shop; $85,000 from a business in Missouri City, Tex.; $10,000 from a shop in Dearborn, Mich.; and $60,000 from a business in San Leandro, Calif. All the values were provided by the storeowners.
Law enforcement officials have been perplexed by the sudden increase in the thefts of hair and the violence that has accompanied some. Some agencies say they had been unaware of the trend before, and others are still learning about it. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” said Denise Ballew, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I., who oversees data related to property crimes. One indication of how quickly the focus of some thieves has shifted to high-end hair is the experience of the Beauty One hair supply store in Chicago: two years ago, thieves went after the store’s cash, but last month, they bypassed the register altogether and took just the hair, which was valued at $90,000.