By Ted Scouten

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – From Pinecrest to Palm Beach, law enforcement has seen a big shift from residential burglaries to high-end auto thefts, stealing either the car or items left inside.

“We saw the two guys came in with a Cadillac, they robbed both our cars,” said Maria Flores, “They took all my mom’s belongings, her ID, jewelry, her camera, and dad’s iPad.”

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“A multitude of vehicles ranging from Porches to Range Rovers to McLarens and other high-end vehicles are continuing to be targeted by the exact same individuals who would traditionally conduct burglaries,” said Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony.

Sheriff Tony said his Burglary Apprehension Team, or “BAT,” is paying extra attention to these thefts. They made 174 arrests last year, found 69 cars, and recovered 17 stolen guns.

The sheriff said some car owners think their vehicle’s technology or location will keep it safe, but that’s not the case. Thieves operating in the tri-county area go looking for easy targets, like unlocked cars with the keys or key fob to it inside.

“They would go out and target different sections of the street. They can go through an entire community in less than 10 minutes looking for unlocked car doors and things of that nature,” said sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Mellies.

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Detectives warn, at a quick glance, thieves can spot specific vehicles that are easy targets.

“They’re simply looking for indicators that a vehicle is unlocked. If it’s a high-end vehicle, the side mirrors are often facing outward. They will canvass neighborhoods looking for those telltale indicators,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Matthew Marks.

Not only are they adept at stealing the vehicles, but they are part of a ring that disables installed tracking devices, changes the VIN’s and sells them to locations across the state and country.

The sheriff’s office said they are working with Miami-Dade and Palm Beach authorities to put more of the ring behind bars.

They said there are some steps that can be taken to keep your ride safe.

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First off, don’t leave the car doors unlocked and keys or key fobs to it inside. Also, don’t leave valuables in the car. Finally, don’t leave a garage door opener in the car.

Ted Scouten