|By Keith Morelli, Tampa Tribune, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Heading to the gym after work? You probably will leave that stuff in your car.
Savvy thieves know this.
A rash of car burglaries is infecting parts of eastern
Here's what deputies say the burglars do: They walk the lot, looking inside the cars for valuables. Deputies say many times, the doors are unlocked and entry is gained by just opening the door.
If the doors are locked, the thieves smash a window, reach in and steal the stuff.
Favorite items include easy-to-grab items like purses, cell phones, laptops and wallets.
Catching these thieves is difficult, said sheriff's Sgt.
"It's tough," he said. "If they break a window, reach in and grab a purse and go, they don't leave much evidence behind."
Sometimes, arrests can be made if the culprits touch the hood or window of the car and leave fingerprints or if DNA evidence is left behind. Or if someone sees them and gets a tag number. Or if there is video surveillance video available.
Lewis urged people to hide valuables under seats to keep them out of sight from the outside, or take the items in with them.
"It's crazy," Lewis said on Friday. "We had three cases just yesterday."
Lewis said a woman who went to the
"She parked near the entrance and within five minutes her car alarm went off," he said. The thief likely saw her put her purse in the trunk. He broke the window, popped the trunk and made off with the purse and its contents. Within a day, he said, her credit card had been used.
People going to the gym or a quick jog in the park are only going to be gone for a short period of time, he said, often thinking their belongings are safe in their cars.
Motivation for thieves might be to steal identities, or just to grab valuables they can sell on the street.
"We post signs in our parking lot," he said. One
He has noticed that car burglaries seem to come in waves.
"A lot of it is seasonal," he said. "It increases in the summertime; it might have something to do with kids being out of school.
"It happens from time to time; there isn't one location where it's a problem," Mangione said. "It really doesn't matter where you are; you could be at the mall,
The theft of wallets and purses from vehicles parked in businesses spiked five years ago, when deputies warned the public about a "felony lane" gang of thieves from
The gang broke into cars and stole identification, credit cards and checkbooks and immediately went to the drive-through lanes of banks to cash checks or do other cash transfers.
In 2009, deputies said, the gang had stolen about
Lewis said investigators are unsure if the car burglaries occurring since the first of the year are connected to any "felony lane" ring.
Inside the city of
"It has been going on for years," said
"Unfortunately it isn't new," she said, "but it's very frustrating for law enforcement.''
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