Police searching for car burglars targeting Miami cemetery

MIAMI (WSVN) - Authorities want to catch the people responsible for a string of car burglaries at a cemetery in Miami.

Miami Police invited a 7News crew inside one of their undercover vehicles as officers drove around the Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North Cemetery, located along Southwest Eighth Street. “In the last month, we’ve actually had five incidents,” said the officer behind the wheel of the car.

Detectives said they are determined to take down the thieves responsible for stealing purses from locked and unlocked vehicles.

Mourners said they are surprised by the thefts. “We come to see our loved ones, and I would never expect it,” said Ana Himcapie.

Miami Police Cmdr. Armando Aguilar said the burglaries are a distressing trend. “You really think sometimes that somebody can’t sink that low,” he said.

But records show they are and at an increasing rate. On May 6, a white four-door sedan was captured on surveillance video speeding away from the cemetery.

Just over an hour later, the victim’s credit card was used at a Target on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach. Surveillance footage captured the subject at the self-checkout line. His sales receipt shows he purchased a box of Trojan condoms and $900 in gift cards.

The officers inside the undercover vehicle spotted an elderly woman getting out of a white van and walking toward a grave while carrying flowers. “They’re targeting these elderly individuals,” said the officer driving the car. “She hasn’t seen us.”

The officers later stopped a man in a blue T-shirt and asked for his identification. “He was very cooperative,” said the officer. “He gave us his ID, and everything checked out.”

Police said the ID used to rent the getaway car caught by surveillance cameras was stolen in a car burglary in North Lauderdale in November. That car was recently recovered partially stripped and abandoned in the back of an apartment complex in Liberty City.

“Once they start using your credit card, once they start using your identity to commit more criminal acts, it just adds to the trauma,” said Aguilar.

Police have stepped up patrols at the cemetery with marked cars as well as undercover surveillance.

Woodlawn North officials released a statement that reads, “We strive to provide a serene, peaceful environment for those who visit their loved ones at our cemetery, and we take the safety and security of our park very seriously. We have signs throughout the cemetery advising visitors to properly secure their valuables, and we installed surveillance cameras in strategic locations throughout the park. We are currently working with the City of Miami Police Department to assist in the investigation.”

“I’m gonna have to walk around very insecure, watching my back and wondering if somebody might break into my car,” said Himcapie. “That’s just horrible.”

If you have any information on these burglaries, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $1,000 reward.

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