TAMPA - Hillsborough County deputies are warning people about the next crime trend that they say has been hitting the streets.
It's called "car hopping" and it only takes a matter of a few seconds for them to gain access to your valuables.
Thieves will find a crowded parking lot, like movie theaters, shopping malls and sporting events and casually stroll the aisles flicking door handles as they go along until they find an unlocked door.
Sometimes the valuables they find are also dangerous, said Larry McKinnon with HCSO.
"We've had numerous cases where people have forgotten or either intentionally not locked their car doors, and yet left firearms underneath their seat," he said.
And with access to so many cars at a time, thieves can make a significant haul with just several tries.
"They know that for every 10 cars they check, they're going to find a couple that are open, so there's no need to physically break a window or door lock to get in," McKinnon said.
And the need for awareness is out there, because the Sheriff's Office says nearly half of all valuables stolen from cars happen when doors are left unlocked.
The thieves don't have to break windows or break locks to do this either, but McKinnon says they still find, in many cases, people didn't want to lock the doors because they were afraid it could cause more damage to the car if someone decided to break in.
The message, McKinnon said, is simple. always lock your doors and either take valuables with you, or hide them where they're out of plain sight.
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