By Peter D'Oench

SOUTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) — South Miami Police investigators are asking for the public’s help finding a new wave of car burglars captured on camera and they say they are in touch with other cities around South Florida about these crimes.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench obtained ring cam and surveillance video exclusively from police that they say shows the burglars from five different incidents recently. Most of them happened on April 12 and 13.

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“These individuals are going through neighborhoods and going door to door looking in many cases for unlocked cars they can get in to take anything of value they can find,” explained lead detective Fernando Bosch. “They are looking for anything from glasses to weapons. In some case people leave their guns in unlocked cars and that’s a big concern.”

Bosch said, “We can not state how important it is for people to lock their cars. It will make it harder for the people trying to victimize them. In some cases they have not been able to get in to cars because they are locked and then they move on. Sometimes there is a car that is seen with them.”

Bosch says he had been in touch with police departments from around South Florida and says police have obtained fingerprints in at least one case.

Car hopper caught on camera. (Credit: South Miami PD)

“It is happening everywhere,” said Bosch. He said in many cases the car burglar strike in the middle of the night between midnight and 5 a.m.

Bosch said “People have left doors unlocked with guns inside and we have had people even leave car keys in the center console. In a number of cases these guys have a getaway car waiting for them.”

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CBS4 has done a series of stories in the past decade with South Miami Police about these so-called “car hoppers” and Police Chief Rene Landa has said his agency has been very proactive in trying to curb these crimes.

Car hoppers are criminals who descend on neighborhoods looking for unlocked cars.

Bosch said they have victimized people in a number of areas including the neighborhood at SW 67th Ave. and 52nd Terrace.

That’s where University of Miami seniors Nicole Biegel and Dana Lettl showed D’Oench how their vehicles had been broken into.

“They rummaged through my car and stole my roommate’s wallet. They went through the glove box and left everything sprawling around in our car,” said Biegel. “They went through my registration and went through everything. It makes me nervous with someone so close going through my car, You want to keep your car locked and don’t keep your wallet in your car overnight.”

“This makes me nervous. I don’t people realize how serious the crime is when you feel a sense of violation when your personal belongings have been taken,” explained Lettl. “You feel super violated that someone has gone through your belongings. We thought we would be safe in this neighborhood and knowing we were targeted it makes me feel very nervous. I would also say never forget to keep your car doors locked.”

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Anyone who recognizes the people seen in the videos should contact South Miami Police at (305) 663-6301 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).

Peter D'Oench