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Message from law enforcement: 'Lock your car'

Securing your valuables is important amid recent car theft investigations.

TAMPA, Fla. — Thieves could be targeting what's inside your car, especially if you're leaving it unlocked. 

Just a few days ago, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office arrested six people for breaking into a number of cars and even stealing a couple of vehicles from the Fishhawk and Riverview areas. It's something law enforcement across the Tampa Bay area has been dealing with. 

And the scary part about that case, officials say is that the people arrested got their hands on a gun that was left unsecured in a car. 

Clearwater police recently posted on social media, asking for help identifying a suspect in a similar type of case, breaking into cars near the area of Countryside Boulevard and State Road 580. They are hoping someone might know the suspect because of his unique sweatshirt. 

Rob Shaw with Clearwater Police says many times, thieves will target places where there are a lot of cars parked. 

"Apartments, townhomes, condos, those kind of things. But we also see just regular neighborhoods, too. Many times, they will work in small groups, 2, 3, 4 people," Shaw said. "They'll come in cars and one person will drive by and let out one or two individuals so they can start walking up and down the street trying door handles." 

Shaw says the key to preventing this crime of opportunity is to lock your doors and keep all valuables out of sight. 

Sgt. Anthony Alli with St. Petersburg Police says it's also a problem there and they worry about guns getting into the wrong hands. 

"One of the biggest issues with the stolen guns, they primarily are coming from vehicles. So if you're a gun owner, we ask that you take that extra step and secure your vehicle," Alli said. "Take the firearm out of the car. It takes 2 seconds, take it in the house, secure it properly. But lock your vehicles."

Tampa Police Spokesperson Verliz Williams says they've seen several incidents recently there, as well. 

"There was an apartment complex in the downtown area that there were 24 burglaries that happened within a few weeks. Luckily an arrest was made in that case and no guns were stolen," Williams said.

Williams also stresses the importance of double-checking to make sure your car is locked when you get out of it.

Back in Clearwater, Shaw says they are working hard to stop these thieves and worked with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to make an arrest at the end of July. 

"Our detectives were able to do some work and recognize one of the individuals involved and they were able to arrest him," Shaw said. "They were 16 years old and they were in possession of four stolen guns. So just think for a moment what those stolen guns are going to be used for, what kind of crimes are going to be committed and what kind of victims you're going to have." 

These cases can be hard to solve, even with so many home surveillance cameras. The thieves do a good job of disguising themselves, and if they do get arrested it's often hard to recover your stolen property. 

But all of our local law enforcement say they are doing everything they can to track down these thieves and make an arrest. But they also remind everyone that you can keep it from happening to you simply by locking your vehicle doors and keeping your valuables out of sight.

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