Hair heists on the rise; suppliers beef up security

Hair heists on the rise; suppliers beef up security
DJ Tate and Edwina Thomas were killed in January 2016. They both sold hair bundles. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
DJ Tate and Edwina Thomas were killed in January 2016. They both sold hair bundles. (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - High-dollar hair extensions that some women can't live without have become a hot item for thieves.  At least four people have died during hair heists in Memphis alone since the beginning of 2016.

Burglars have been caught on camera breaking through the glass at beauty supply stores in Hickory Hill. They aren't after money; they are after hair.

E.J. Tate, his girlfriend Edwina Thomas and their unborn child were killed as they sat in a car at a Raleigh apartment complex. Their killer came up and robbed them of the hair they sold for a living.

"Jesus they going crazy over hair. Is it that serious?" Memphian Larricka Morris questioned.

Willie Abston, an employee at Bundles of Hair in Whitehaven, was shot and killed February 10. Police said the suspects took off with a box of hair.

In Memphis, over the past 10 months, at least 18 hair or weave businesses have been burglarized for bundles.

Click here to see an interactive map of Memphis' hair heists.

The black market is booming as thieves steal and sell human hair extensions worth thousands of dollars.

"With the market change and everybody trying to come up with a quick buck, some people have actually walked up to me trying to sell hair," hair customer Buener Jimerson said.

Courtney Carter owns The Hair Affair on Lamar Avenue at Airways Boulevard.

"It's crazy but you know wherever money is being made you're going to have the criminal element," Carter said.

Cheap hair sells for about $10. The good stuff can go for more than $300.

Locks more than a foot long bring in the most profit.

"The beauty supply, that's like mid-grade. When we're talking about bundled hair it's like comparing a Chevy to a Mercedes. You get more ride out of that Mercedes," Carter said.

Morris bought her first Peruvian bundles from Carter for $240.

"That's decent, because if you are a high maintenance person like myself, you will spend that anyway going to the beauty salon and buying the hair," Jimerson said. "It adds up to be the same anyway."

Thieves know women will pay for it.

"You can never totally stop a criminal. All you can do is slow them down, and we took a lot of precautions," Carter said. "You have to be buzzed in, we have bars, we have--as you can see--surveillance cameras."

The Hair Affair only accepts cash, and for that reason, Carter's customers are also potential targets as they approach his store.

"They are not scared to spend their money. Just like they'll spend it on purses and shoes, they'll go all out on the hair," he said.

Since beauty comes at a price, crooks are catching on. Stealing hair has become a costly crime for business owners.

"This will not stop," warned Carter. "This will continue to go on. Whenever there is money being made,  the wolves will show up."

In light of recent hair bundle burglaries, friends of a Cordova man who was murdered in 2014 said there could be a connection there as well.

Jarmelle "JoJo" Jones sold bundles of hair online. He was killed in a home invasion around Thanksgiving in 2014.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads police to his killer.

Copyright 2016 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.