Luxury Car Theft on the Rise in South Florida: Fort Lauderdale Attorney talks How to Prevent Auto Theft & Car Theft Penalties
Car Hoppers - a term for organized car theft crews - are making a killing in upscale Fort Lauderdale and South Florida neighborhoods. If caught and convicted, someone can spend up to 30 years in prison for car theft in Florida.
How car thieves stealing cars in South Florida & how you might be helping them
Stealing a luxury vehicle is more simple than you might think - many times, the car owner unknowingly helps the car hopper out.
One of the big ways luxury cars are disappearing off South Florida streets because of their sideview mirrors.
The big thing many Car hoppers or car thieves look for: unfolded sideview mirrors. This is a telltale sign that a luxury vehicle was left unlocked, according to Sun Sentinel. More often than you might think - a car’s side view mirrors might be up, the car is unlocked and a key fob may even be inside.
Recently, this scenario has happened time and time again in Fort Lauderdale, Sun Sentinel reports, and cars are being stolen left and right.
While in his own backyard, a man’s $700,000 white Ferrari was stolen from his driveway in Coral Ridge in January. A surveillance video showed a man hop out of a sedan, jump into the Ferrari and drive it away within seconds. The car’s key fob was inside the Ferrari’s center console. Most of the time, the car thieves drive around neighborhoods in unassuming sedans like Toyotas or Hyundais.
The Coral Ridge man was one of the few to get his car back - and a 15-year old with known ties to a street crew is the current suspect. Days after his Ferrari was back home, his wife’s $150,000 Mercedes disappeared from the driveway. All she did was leave the car running in the driveway while she ran inside to grab something. Then the car was gone when she came back out.
Broward Sheriff’s Department has a squad that specializes in these car hopper thefts, and they said that mirrors are a big give away to whether or not a car is locked, as most luxury vehicles automatically tuck in their mirrors once the doors are locked.
Police report that the cars, once stolen, can sell for $30,000 on the street. Police say that organized rings of car thieves are targeting upscale neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and South Florida, reported the Sun Sentinel. The people will get in cars that are unlocked, raid them for valuables, and if the key fob is in the car - they’ll drive off with the whole car.
For the woman whose car was stolen, it was located parked in Opa-locka, thanks to additional GPS trackers the couple had installed after their Ferrari disappeared.
Most of the time, however, the cars are gone and owners don’t get them back.
Last year, in April 2020, “officers in Broward and Palm Beach pooled resources to catch a crew that had driven from Lauderhill into upscale neighborhoods in Lantana, Wellington and Lake Worth. The three-man crew broke into several cars and stole valuables, including a Louis Vuitton purse, but did not make away with any cars, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report,” according to the Sun Sentinel. “A sheriff’s aviation unit tracked their progress from the sky, which eventually tipped police off to a safe location to arrest them.”
South Florida Car Theft Increases, Police Report
In February alone, 10 people were arrested in Fort Lauderdale from three different crews involved in tri-county car theft rings according to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s street crimes division.
Nearly 900 cars were stolen in the city of Fort Lauderdale in 2020, police reported. “Auto thefts have been on the rise through the past couple years,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Det. Tim Shields to Local 10. “It has been an ongoing trend, not only in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, but nationwide.”
In general, thefts were up in 2020 with 176 arrests made by Broward county that are related to the organized car hopper crews. BSO said 69 cars were recovered, with a combined worth of more than $4 Million.
From 2019 to 2020 the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Hollywood Police Department and Boca Raton Police Department all reported an increase in car thefts. Nationally, car thefts increased nearly 10% from 2019 to 2020.
Protect your Car from being stolen in South Florida:
Some of these may sound simple, but these simple steps are neglected far more often than any of us would like to admit. Following these steps can help ensure your car is less of a target for car theft, and can even help protect you and your family.
Always Lock Your Car: Even if you are just running inside to grab something you forgot when you rushed out the door - never leave your car unattended and unlocked. Not even for a moment. When we say always lock your car always, we mean allllways.
Never Leave Your Car Running: We get it - you just hopped in the car, were about to leave for work and then realized your hot cup of coffee is still on your kitchen counter. That dash inside, even from your own driveway, allows enough time for someone to hop into your car and drive away. A number of police reports and surveillance videos show that a car can be stolen in less than 10 seconds.
Never Leave your Keys in the Car - Even if Locked: Make sure you never leave your key fob in your car - even if locked. And never store your spare key in your car. It may seem unthinkable, but many times people in South Florida are able to steal cars with perfect ease thanks to a key fob in the car.
Don’t leave your children unattended in a locked OR unlocked car: This is a terrifying reality, but cars are even being stolen with children inside. More likely than not, the car hopper may not even notice a child in the back seat - especially if you have a baby in a rear-facing car seat. But leaving a child in an unlocked car- even if for a second - can lead to a terrifying reality of your child being taken along for the ride when someone hops in to steal your car. Even if you have an older child and you lock them in the car while you run into the grocery store for a single item - this creates a high vulnerability for your child (especially if they like to play with any buttons).
Remove all personal belongings from your car: Don’t leave anything - especially items of value such as purses, wallets, electronics - in your car at any time it’s unattended.
What South Florida Police are Doing about Rampant Car Theft
Fort Lauderdale police launched the ‘Where’s Your Fob?’ campaign, hoping it will help residents be more aware to remove their keys and fobs from their cars before leaving it unattended. Car theft has plagued Fort Lauderdale for decades, but the 900 car thefts within the city limits in 2020 is certainly alarming - it was a 7% increase in Fort Lauderdale form 2019.
“The more attempts that they have where they are not gaining (access to) these cars, it will force them to move to other neighborhoods that will decrease crime in our city and hopefully we can spread the word to our neighboring municipalities as well,” said Det. Shields.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department created the 'Where's Your Fob?' campaign to educate our residents and ultimately prevent these types of crimes from occurring in our city," FLT Police said in a release.
"Our ultimate goal would be to have agencies up and down Dade, Broward and Palm Beach kind of jump on with the slogan and spread the word," Shields, a FLPD Street Crimes Division Detective, told the Sun Sentinel.
Boca Raton Police have already also adopted a "Where's The Fob" slogan, saying "You wouldn't leave your house keys in the front door. Why would you leave your key FOB in your car?" in a PDF online. Even back in spring 2017, Boca Raton Police reported that 42% of stolen cars involve people getting away because the owner left a fob in the car.
Car Theft Penalties in South Florida: Fort Lauderdale Criminal Attorney Explains
The consequences of carjacking, car hopping and auto theft are incredibly severe and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by Florida State Prosecutors.
Car theft with or without a firearm or other deadly weapon is considered a first-degree felony.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Offers Free Consultations for Car Theft Charges
Arrested for car theft or car hopping in South Florida? Our skilled Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys provide award-winning representation in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.