SOUTH MIAMI(CBS4)- New surveillance tape obtained exclusively by CBS4 shows two burglars who police say victimized nearly 20 homeowners in three cities this past Tuesday morning.
The tape shows the criminals rummaging through vehicles and moving quickly, spending a few minutes at each home before moving on. In one case, a gun was stolen from one of the victim’s cars.
“I think they should be dealt him with severely to serve as a deterrent against others doing this,” Gary Costales told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “The next step is are they going to rob your house and take something from your yard? It’s a personal violation. Everyone should lock their car doors and share information with neighbors.”
Costales says he was fortunate in that the thieves only found some spare change in his GMC Canyon.
South Miami Police Chief Rene Landa said in all eight cases from South Miami, the victims left the doors of their vehicles unlocked. Landa believes the same criminals broke into eight other cars in Pinecrest and two vehicles in Coral Gables the same morning.
“This is what we call ‘hopping’ and it’s been going on for years now,” said Lansa. “It’s a really big thing nationwide. People between 1 o’clock and 5 o’clock go out and they are looking for everything from sunglasses, electronic items, change and GPS devices. In all the South Miami cases people left their doors unlocked.”
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You can’t leave any valuable item in your cars. And you have to lock your doors. They are looking to not have to break into cars because they don’t want to leave fingerprints or DNA. So they try the door handle and if the car is locked they move on to the next one.”
Landa said he has spoken to the South Miami City Commission about this issue and says car hopping crimes have skyrocketed nationwide in the past five years. He called it a “crime of opportunity.”
“You know in South Miami, we have a slogan and a phrase we tell people,” he said. “Lock your doors to keep what’s yours.”
CBS4 caught up with South Miami Police officers as they knocked on doors and walked through the neighborhood where the victims live in the area of SW 81st Street And SW 59th Avenue They passed out flyers with crime prevention tips and reminded residents to lock their car doors.
Frances Meltzer, whose Honda Civic was also broken into on Tuesday morning, said “I think we need to be more vigilant. I’m careless. I don’t lock my car doors but I will now. I locked them. The criminals did not take anything from me because I didn’t have anything in my car. It’s pretty desperate. It appears that they were kids but I don’t know. They didn’t take my bicycle.”
Anyone with information about the two criminals captured on camera in South Miami should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).