BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Broward Sheriff’s Office Burglary Apprehension Team, also known as the BAT Unit, has been cracking down on car thieves, particularly targeting what they call HEAT, or high end auto theft.
Authorities say thieves who are part of a large crime ring are hunting for high-end vehicles, like Mercedes-Benzes, Range Rovers and other pricey cars.
“A multitude of vehicles from Porsches, Range Rovers, McLarens, and other high-end vehicles are continuing to be targeted by the exact same individuals who would traditionally conduct burglaries,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Tuesday at a news conference.
The thieves disable tracking devices, change VIN’s and sell the vehicles to locations across the state and country, deputies say.
Authorities say the thieves are often successful because the victims believe their vehicles are parked in safe locations and feel secure with their car’s technology, so they often leave their car doors unlocked and the keys or key fobs inside.
“They were very successful only because we, as a community, were not doing our due diligence. That means we were not locking our doors, we were leaving valuables – Rolexes, watches, purses, cellphones, jewelry – inside the cup holders,” Lt. Jeff Mellis said.
According to BSO, the BAT Unit made 174 arrests in 2020 and recovered 69 stolen vehicles.
Authorities say they also seized 17 firearms during the operation.
The total value of the stolen vehicles recovered last year was more than $4.3 million.
“By utilizing a myriad of investigative techniques, combined with BSO’s resources and invaluable teamwork from neighboring law enforcement agencies, hardly a day goes by that BAT detectives don’t make an arrest on a stolen car or significant progress toward recovering one,” a BSO news release stated. “In recent months, the BAT Unit has solved dozens of cases. They recovered a stolen Land Rover and a stolen firearm, busted a pair of men suspected of stealing catalytic converters from vans across two counties and arrested two men accused of being prime suspects in the high end auto theft trend.”
Below is a list of recommendations from the BSO on how to protect yourself and your vehicle:
• Don’t leave your car doors unlocked
• Don’t leave your car keys or fobs in your car
• Don’t leave valuables in your car
• Don’t leave your garage door opener in your car