Hair Theft Crimes on the Rise

by Catherine Q. O'Neill

photo: Jeremy Nelson
photo: Jeremy Nelson

We can think of a lot of hair crimes over the decades: mullets, bowl cuts, and so on. But in recent years, it seems like the number of actual crimes linked to hair (specifically hair extensions) is on the rise, and it has us doing some serious thinking about our own strands.

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Take Venezuela, for example. This week, reports from the city of Maracaibo indicated that a group of "piranhas" is stalking long-haired women in malls, beaches, and downtown areas. The perpetrators grab victims by the hair, cut it off with scissors, and sell it to wig and extension makers. Similar attacks have happened in Colombia and South Africa.

There's a black market for hair in Europe and Asia as well, wherein women fall victim to harsh financial pressures, if not actual hair-stealing criminals. As David Elman, a co-owner of Raw Virgin Hair Company, told the New York Times in 2010,"People who have temporary financial difficulties in depressed regions [often] sell their hair." In some instances, women are forced to sell their hair by their own husbands--sometimes for as little as $10.

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And not all the dirty dealing is abroad. Hair-extension theft is rampant in the United States, where it seems like every other week someone (or a group of people) breaks into businesses to steal not money, not jewelry, but hair. Sometimes$150,000 worth of hair. Which makes us wonder: With so many real hair crimes occurring here and abroad, what's safe and what isn't? If we took a hard look at the source of our extensions, would we still want to be wearing them? We know we'll be investigating...

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