Village of Pinecrest Experiencing An Uptick In Auto Theft

Amy-Grace Shapiro, Multimedia Photo Editor

During the past couple of years, the rise in auto theft and car burglaries in the Village of Pinecrest has drastically increased. Although this issue has posed a threat to the Pinecrest community in the past, one recent case in particular leaves residents worried for their safety.

Back in October, Pinecrest resident Maria Flores was a victim of an auto theft ring based in Broward County according to CBS4 Miami. At Flores’ parent’s home, where the incident took place, surveillance cameras captured three men arriving at the scene in a white Cadillac. The driver remained in the car, while the other two men swiftly scavenged through the Flores family cars, stole valuables, then returned to the vehicle and left. 

Typically, these types of burglaries occur when car owners leave the doors unlocked. However, Flores’ case poses a different issue since the doors on both vehicles were fastened. Police believe the suspects attained a device that allowed them to break in without the need of a key. 

To most effectively prevent grand auto theft and vehicle-related burglaries, Pinecrest Police Department Operations Lieutenant Ivan Osores advizes Pinecrest homeowners to always lock car doors and hide valuables in a discreet place. 

“For vehicle owners, the best thing they can do is lock their doors, take their key fobs with them and do not leave valuables inside of the car,” Osores said. “Almost all of our vehicle thefts and car burglaries were because someone left their key fob in the car or they left valuables in plain sight.”

Oftentimes, what the police call “car hoppers” go from vehicle to vehicle until they come across an unlocked automobile. From there, if a key fob is present, the hopper can drive away and steal the car as a whole, or rummage through the vehicle and take the owners valuables and leave without the car. 

Village of Pinecrest Councilwoman Shannon Del Prado works every day to ensure the safety of Pinecrest residents as well as spread education on ways to prevent these problems from worsening. 

“We must do our individual part by remembering to always lock our doors. We must give our partnership, support and team work by reporting anything that we find suspicious,” Del Prado said.  

For the escalating problem, the Pinecrest Police Department has adopted a new way to track down possible suspects of auto-theft in order to ensure the safety of Pinecrest residents. Officers start with little information about a stolen car or items within a car and then follow and question people who demonstrate suspicious behaviors. 

“We are conducting specific patrols in areas that have been victimized, looking for possible wrong doers, as a matter of fact just a month ago we conducted an operation that ended in the arrest of three subjects that have just attempted to steal a vehicle,” Osores said. 

In the event that the resident has surveillance cameras, content then goes under review for suspicious people and behaviors and any leads go out to surrounding officers for them to keep an eye out. 

“Officers will then receive immediate information any time we have any good images or video of a known offender, and the information gets shared with all officers,” Osores said.  “And then they have been made aware of the type of behavior and suspicious vehicles that they need to be looking out for.”

On top of routinely patrol, the PPD offers many preventative resources including the “Don’t be a victim” pamphlet that emphasizes on the phrase “Lock it or Lose it.” Additionally, the pamphlet offers other tips to Pinecrest residents, one which urges citizens to activate the car’s GPS locating feature. With this feature of the GPS, officers can pin a specific location where the vehicle appears to be, limiting the need for a strenuous search.

“The village has adopted the Lock it or Lose it Campaign, this is a public service support effort to educate our residents about car theft. The campaign reminds residents that thieves target unlocked cars,” Del Prado said. “We have installed our Pinecrest police support neighborhood watch programs in which our officers train residents to be observant and report suspicious activity.”

Most importantly, if one witnesses mistrustful behavior at any time, they should not hesitate to contact officers immediately. 

“Making contact with police as the behaviors are noticed, if you see something suspicious call the police. We hear residents say ‘I did not want to call, I did not want to bother anyone, I did not think it was important’ and then it turns out that information could have been a good lead for us to make contact with somebody,” said Osores.