Spike in stolen cars at MIA as thieves target vehicles with powerful, pricey engines

(WSVN) - The cars are fast, and their owners are no doubt furious after a recent spike in stolen vehicles at a South Florida airport, and police say the thieves are targeting a certain type of ride. The Nightteam’s Karen Hensel investigates.

From Mercedes-Benz to Jaguar, Lamborghini to Rolls Royce, even mix in a McLaren.

It’s not a showroom floor. Just a parking garage at Miami International Airport.

Dale Swedberg, SUV stolen: “I would think it would be a hard place to steal a vehicle, but evidently, it’s not.”

… At least not recently.

7News has learned of a surge in stolen cars at MIA over the last few months.

According to the airport, there have been 19 car thefts since the start of the year.

Compare that to just two in 2020, zero in 2019 and two in 2018 during the same four-month time period.

Dale Swedberg: “I thought it was a safe place to park, you know? I mean you’re paying $18 a day to park there. It should be safe.”

Swedberg and his family had just returned from a six-day trip to the Dominican Republic earlier this month when they discovered their SUV had been stolen from the third floor of the Dolphin Garage.

Jake Swedberg, son: “It’s super frustrating, obviously. You get back from a family vacation, and you walk into a parking garage that you think is secure, and your car is not there anymore.”

Their 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk was equipped with a powerful, expensive engine.

Police say the pricey Hellcat motors have fueled the spike in stolen cars at the airport.

Dale Swedberg: “I told them what it was, and that it was a TrackHawk, and it had a Hellcat motor in it, and they go, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and after that, they didn’t really even flinch, that they were pretty convinced it had been stolen because there are that many of them being stolen, I guess. They just said that they’re targeted around the country, not just Miami.”

A quick Google search reveals cars with supercharged engines have been a desirable target nationwide, and these can be high-tech heists. Thieves have been known to unlock and even start cars by stealing or mimicking signals from key fobs.

Jake Swedberg: “They’re not breaking glass. They’re not sticking screwdrivers in locks or in ignitions. You know, they’re just walking up with an electronic device and firing the car up.”

Dale Swedberg: “Yeah, I would have never guessed. You lock your vehicle up. You would think, ‘Yeah, they gotta break in, right?’ No.”

While the thief or thieves who took off in the Swedbergs’ SUV managed to get out of this airport parking garage, it does not mean they’re in the clear. Miami-Dade Police tell us cameras captured the car leaving, and fingerprints were recovered from the parking ticket.

Jake Swedberg: “First thing we thought is, ‘OK, it’s an airport. There’s gotta be tons of security. There’s cameras.’ I would think that they would know what’s going on in every square inch of that entire piece of property.”

Airport officials say they have increased security patrols, and new lighting has been installed in the garages.

Still, they caution: “Owners of vehicles with Hellcat engines are highly encouraged to take extra precautions,” like adding other anti-theft devices or even not parking these type of cars for long periods of time.

Police say the auto theft cases are open and active investigations with “some possible leads.”

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