TAMPA, Fla - Tampa police and Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies are warning drivers of a recent spike in auto break-ins involving cars that are left unlocked.
Between April 1 and April 10, there were six auto burglaries in the South Tampa area. Five other victims had items stolen because they left their garage doors open.
Items stolen include a gun, $1,000 in cash, a Tory Burch purse, iPhone, iPad and bank cards.
Surveillance video caught a suspect in the act near West Parkland Avenue. The suspect is described as a thin black male possibly about 30 years old and standing 6 feet. Another victim provided a similar description of a man he caught at his car who then ran away.
Sgt. Greg Van Heyst with Tampa Police Department called this problem "cyclical" and something that can lead to other crimes.
"In one case a gun was stolen," he said. "Who knows what that might or could be used in or has been used in already."
Detectives in Pinellas County said between 50 and 70 percent of their auto break-ins are the result of drivers leaving their doors unlocked. Two months ago, St. Pete Police Department reported a spike in the same type of crime.
Authorities said hotspots for crimes like this are at gyms and malls.
However, the recent cases in South Tampa are occurring on residential blocks.
"They will just go down a block and check all the doors," Sgt. Van Heyst explained.
In Jillian Hartman's case, the doors on her blue Honda were locked. She knows that for a fact because her doors automatically lock after two minutes.
She came out of her home off Bay Way Drive to find her purse and graduation cash gone.
"He's got everything," said Hartman. "He can come back. He has got the key to my car."
The suspect also nabbed her Social Security card, credit cards, bank cards, license and insurance information.
"I have been dealing with it for almost a week now, trying to cancel everything out and call everybody back," Hartman said.
Authorities are urging drivers to lock their doors, leave their windows rolled up, park in well-lit areas, put your car alarm on if you have one and do not leave valuables in the car or in plain sight.