Florida's Gulf Coast has seen dozens of car thefts during the past few months, according to Police Chief Pete Cumming.
The Longboat Key Police Department is urging residents to lock their cars after a string of thefts along the Gulf Coast.
Police Chief Pete Cumming said his department is working with other law enforcement agencies to track a group of high-end car thieves from Longboat Key to Naples.
“They’re targeting these vehicles ahead of time somehow,” Cumming said. “We’re convinced that either the fobs are left in the vehicles or they have some method that they’re using before they target a vehicle.”
Cumming said the thieves have been known to take a car’s VIN number to create a clone fob before stealing it outright.
“There’s a lot of technology now that helps these car thieves do their job quicker,” Cumming said.
Thieves have a few different objectives once they steal a car, according to Cumming. They can sell the stolen car’s parts to a chop shop, they can try trading the cars outside of the country or use them to commit other crimes before abandoning them.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the Gulf Coast have had dozens of reports about stolen vehicles during the last few months, according to Cumming.
In May, Cumming said a thief stole a 2018 Land Rover SUV from Longboat Key. Authorities recovered it in the Miami area, Cumming said.
“I’m starting to see a ramping up in activity now with the same group,” Cumming said.
Cumming believes Longboat Key’s older demographics factor into a thief’s decision making.
“I think there’s a double-sided coin here on this because there’s a lot of valuable things on Longboat Key, but there’s also a lot of high-end security,” Cumming said.
Longboat Key has license plate cameras. Cumming said it was “very risky” for car theft to happen with only two ways on and off the island.
Cumming also advised residents to keep their garage doors closed and to lock their homes.
“When we do see a cluster of, say thefts or burglaries to either vehicles or residents, it’s usually because there’s temptation,” Cumming said. “There’s a purse left on the seat of a car or something as simple as a garage door left open or several of them in a small neighborhood. And, these thieves come around and they are opportunistic.”
The investigation into the area’s car thefts is ongoing.