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.

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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.”

(Source: Miami-Dade Police)

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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.

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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.

Peter D'Oench