Hidden Threat

(WSVN) - Car break-ins are on the rise in South Florida and what is being taken has one Broward County prosecutor concerned. 7’s Brandon Beyer explains what you need to know about this “hidden threat.”

Resident: “We always considered our neighborhood a safe neighborhood.”

Neighborhoods across South Florida are being hit by car burglaries.

The break-ins are usually done by teens in groups and there is a name for this crime.

Maria Schneider, Broward County prosecutor: “Kids do this thing called ‘car hopping’ and basically they will go to a neighborhood and they will just basically try the handles of every car they can find.”

Broward County State Attorney Maria Schneider says once “car hoppers” get into the unlocked vehicles, they’re finding more than just money or iPads.

Maria Schneider: “These vehicles that are left completely unlocked sometimes have guns in them.”

And because car hoppers don’t have to break your car window.

They get quick, easy access.

Maria Schneider: “I’m talking on a weekly basis, I see cases come across my desk where what is taken when kids are car hopping, if there’s a gun, it’s going to be a gun that’s taken.”

Schneider is so outraged at what she sees coming across her desk every week. She is calling this more than a growing trend.

Maria Schneider: “This is an epidemic, and I’m not exaggerating.”

Gregory Arneaud is also angry about what’s going on. His gun was stolen from his car while it was parked in the garage of his Pembroke Pines apartment building.

Gregory Arneaud, had gun stolen out of his car: “I’m gonna take a little more measures, like I said, to be able to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Arneaud says he’s worried because his gun is out there somewhere.

Gregory Arneaud: “The lesson learned, don’t leave my gun in the car, even at home.”

And this is not just a local problem. The U.S. Department of Justice says more than 175,000 guns were reported stolen between 2011 and 2015. More than 33,000 of those were stolen from motor vehicles.

Maria Schneider: “This is one night of activity, each one of these sections is a separate case.”

And right now the only way to stop the crimes is for people to lock their car doors, because anyone can keep a gun in the car. No special license is required for this hidden threat.

Maria Schneider: “How hard is it to try and remember that if you have your gun in your car, you should lock the darn thing. I just don’t understand how that can be a challenge.”

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