By Peter D'Oench

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade police have released new surveillance tape of some serial burglars who have been targeting victims solely for the air bags in their cars.

Detectives are alarmed because they say hundreds of people this past year in Miami-Dade have been victimized in this fashion.

In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Officer Marloys Morales said, “It’s something that we’ve never seen before. There’s a pretty big spike that we’ve been experiencing lately. We just don’t want people to continue being victimized.”

The new surveillance tape shows one crime that happened at 3:42 a.m. on May 18th in which three vehicles were burglarized at the Chateau Coral apartment complex at 7150 SW 23rd St.

Morales said the men then walked over to the Coral Terrace West apartments at 7080 SW 23rd St. where they broke into six other vehicles. Residents at that complex said several of those cars were Hondas.

Morales said before they left the area, the criminals burglarized two more vehicles at Royal Gardens apartments at 7099 SW 23rd St. He said they fled after stealing a total of 11 air bags.

Police said it’s believed the group has victimized other people. They said “multiple cells” are operating in Miami-Dade. The latest video shows just one cell or group.

“It appears they are very experienced in what they are doing,” said Morales. “On average they take between two and three minutes per vehicle. It is something we have never seen before. We are now seeing a pretty big spike in this lately and we want to prevent other people from being victimized.”

2 miami dade car burglars CBS4 Exclusive: Police Say Air Bag Thieves Victimize Hundreds In Miami Dade

(Source: Miami-Dade Police)

Authorities want residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

“As far as we know, these latest subjects are white Hispanics males, between 20 and 30 years old and they wear sweaters and hoodies to cover their faces. They usually operate in the midnight to early morning hours. One of them has a beard. We want people if they see anything suspicious in their neighborhood to call police so we can come out and check this out,” said Morales.

He said people should not confront criminals but call the cops instead.

Anyone with information about the burglars should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).

In May, CBS4 reported on a rash of victims whose cars were broken into for their air bags in Miami and other parts of the county. The cars being targeted were Hondas and Toyotas.

Steve Rodriguez, whose Honda was burglarized, said, “I just leased the car nine days ago. The car doesn’t even have 300 miles on it.  I am more than upset to say the least.”

“For precautions, always park in a well-lit area,” said Morales. “A gated area is preferable and in addition if you get a car alarm, they will deter individuals from breaking into your vehicle.”

Authorities have told CBS4 that stolen air bags have often ended up in the hands of some unscrupulous mechanics who install them and then bill insurance companies $1,000 or more.

If you are getting an air bag replaced on your vehicle, experts recommend that you use a reputable repair shop and inspect your invoice to make sure a brand new air bag is being installed.

Comments (9)
  1. Lynn Wood says:

    Well with the recalls and all one does have to cut expenses and widen the availability of replacement parts.

    1. Vox Veritas says:

      Because one never knows when one’s airbags will be stolen and one will need the stolen originals replaced with stolen used airbags at a discount.

  2. Vox Veritas says:

    “As far as we know, these latest subjects are white Hispanics [sic] males”

    Yes indeed.

    It’s not your brown “Hispanics [sic]” males involved in any way.

  3. Vox Veritas says:

    “If you are getting an air bag replaced on your vehicle, experts recommend that you…inspect your invoice to make sure a brand new air bag is being installed.”

    Because a mechanic who would source and install stolen airbags would never falsify your invoice.

  4. Years ago, the roof panels on the T-roof of my 300ZX were stolen. I talked to my insurance agent, who said I can have new panels and pay the $500 deductible or get used ones for free. I got the free used ones of course, and the agent said that local thieves steal them to sell to crooked car shops, who put them back on those same cars they were stolen from in the first place.

    The airbag thefts sounds like the same crooked racket. I bet there is a waiting list for good, new airbags being manufactured to replace the defective ones in the airbag recall, so “used” (stolen) airbags help fill in the high demand.

    If the cops really want to find the thieves, get a search warrant for the nearby Honda/Toyota dealers. I bet five bucks their new airbags are back-ordered from authorized manufacturers, yet they still manage, without any airbags in stock, to replace airbags for the owners of recalled vehicles.

  5. Carol King says:

    “White Hispanic males”? Gotta throw that “white” description in there even though they aren’t white.

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