Thieves 'punch' their way into cars in international crime ring

Punch plug, other devices used to prevent vehicle break-ins

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – In Local 10 News' last Neighborhood Crime Alert, reporter Andrew Perez showed how 'sand snakes' were trolling area beaches to take your personal belongings. 

This week, he got word of an international band of thieves who are getting creative and breaking into a whole mess of cars.

It's a Neighborhood Crime Alert affecting more than one neighborhood. 

"I know we've done it," said one driver. "We'll leave our glasses and things in the car." 

Instead of smashing and grabbing, crooks are punching their way into cars in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. 

Police said the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale and area beach parking lots have seen an uptick in vehicle burglaries.

Sources said it's a crime ring that's at work, targeting unsuspecting drivers in busy parking lots and stealing any valuables to ship out of the country and resell for more money.

Their first preferred method to break in, sources said, is punching car door locks. Their secondary method is smashing windows.

Sources said the crews have hit vehicles in Miami, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale among others.

Ed Federkeil owns California Custom Sport Trucks in Dania Beach. 

He said he's all too familiar with the lock punching trend and showed Local 10 News what thieves already know. 

"They'll take a screwdriver and just with the force of their hand, drive it into the lock mechanism, maybe take one or two times, and as they're turning it they'll pull the handle and open the door," said Federkeil. 

Less than an hour after an interview with Federkeil, another vehicle entered his Dania Beach shop with damage to the lock.

He said the crime is popular because it's quicker and cleaner than breaking glass. 

"It's about a 30-second operation and you can be inside any of these vehicles that have a key hole on the door," said Federkeil. 

So when locking your doors and removing your valuables isn't enough anymore, some new tools come in to play like a punch plug. 

"You can remove the lock cylinder but then you have a gaping hole there," Federkeil said. "That's where the punch plug comes in." 

That, however, only solves part of the problem. Especially for trucks, which seem to be most targeted by thieves, jimmy jammer door lock protection plates come in handy to keep thieves from getting in.

Some people are even replacing their handles and removing the keyhole altogether.

Authorities said you should be taking your valuables either way when you leave your car. 

Chords and chargers and GPS holders should also be hidden. You don't want to give criminals any clues to what you have inside your car.

Whether you have something worth taking or not, crooks do a whole lot of damage in a matter of seconds. 

Follow Andrew Perez on Twitter @PerezLocal10

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10


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