"Car-hopping" teens caught stealing in Sarasota

Posted at 4:53 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 00:01:26-05

Four teen thieves were caught red-handed by Sarasota police on Tuesday, and now the department is putting out the word that over 40 vehicles were burglarized in Sarasota on Monday and Tuesday.

So far, none of the victims of these thefts have come forward, which happened in three parking garages:

  1. BB & T Bank, 1800 Second St,
  2. Hollywood 20, 1993 Main St,
  3. Wells Fargo Bank, 1819 Main St.

The teens were captured in part because of the perceptive eye of a Coast Guard agent who spotted the suspicious activity. Once the teens were captured, they admitted to what they called "car-hopping" in which they took off from school to try the door handles of cars, and stole items from unlocked vehicles like iPods, cash and car-chargers.

Detectives believe citizens could be victims and not even realize it.  Any citizen who parked in the three parking garages listed above in the last several days is asked to report anything suspicious or out of the ordinary to the Sarasota Police Department.

One of the suspects is Matthew S. Gunn, 18, of Sarasota. He's been charged with burglary of an occupied structure, a felony, in connection with the vehicle burglaries.  The three juveniles each been charged with burglary of an occupied structure and/or burglary to an unoccupied vehicle.  The total number of charges is still under investigation.

Police say this is part of a larger trend of car burglaries in the Sarasota area recently. In addition to the 40 or more burglaries this week, there has been 45 reported vehicle burglaries in Sarasota since the beginning of 2016. Most have been to unsecured vehicles.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call Detective Dwayne Shellhammer at 941-954-7014 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS (8477) or online at