By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Dade police busted more than two dozen people related to a rash of recent car thefts.

Sergeant Fred Suros of the Miami-Dade Auto Theft Unit said it’s been a disturbing trend in the Kendall area.

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“Individuals from outside of the Hammocks district, coming from Homestead, Allapattah, Perrine, targeting unlocked vehicles in the suburbs,” Suros explained. “They may arrive on foot, by bike, or public transportation, and then leave in a stolen car.”

As part of an operation Tuesday night, they zeroed in on a series of vehicle burglary suspects compiled from a month-long investigation.

Some of the suspects were repeat offenders. Almost all were arrested for felony charges, including grand theft, car burglary, and operating a chop shop. Other misdemeanor charges included marijuana possession and prowling.

One person had three pages of home addresses and vehicle information he had been compiling.

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“They canvas the neighborhood,” said Sgt. Suros. “They check door handles. It’s called ‘car hopping’.”

Weapons were among the stolen items officers seized, meaning these crimes could have turned into something even more serious.

“The firearms are then used for other crimes,” Suros said. “The vehicles they steal are used to facilitate other crimes, like robberies and residential burglaries.”

Miami-Dade Police said these are usually crimes of opportunity. They encourage everyone to lock their car doors and keep valuables out of their vehicles in order to keep them from getting in the wrong hands.

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Investigators managed to identify many of the suspects through doorbell surveillance footage.

Karli Barnett