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Thieves with brass neck sought after tubas disappear

Police in Los Angeles are advising the city's schools to tighten security after a rash of burglaries in which thieves have broken into music department classrooms and made off with tubas.

The large brass instruments are worth over $5,000 (£3,200) when new and half that second-hand. Even a badly dented specimen is worth hundreds of dollars on the scrap-metal market.

There are several tuba players in most high-school marching bands, which perform at football games and other ceremonial occasions. But in East Los Angeles, the area where the burglaries are occurring, many schools are now unable to field a full band. "We still have three tubas left, but we have more players than instruments," Ruben Gonzalez Jnr, the band leader at South Gate High School, told the Los Angeles Times. He's lost five tubas so far this term.

He is by no means alone. Centennial High in Compton recently lost eight sousaphones, a type of tuba that can be easily carried, in a burglary. Fremont High now has just one of the instruments left, from its original stock of 13.

The crime wave is mostly limited to areas with large Hispanic populations, leading police to conclude it is being fuelled by a craze in "Banda," a brass-based Latino dance music.