COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — The Collier County Sheriff's Office wants to warn drivers about recent smash and grabs in the area. Deputies say they have seen an increase.
From August 22 to September 25, the sheriff's office had 13 reports of smash and grabs. They say thieves are targeting plazas with gyms, but it's more intricate than that.
"The criminals are getting a little bit smarter and they’re going after specific gyms that have classes on the hour, every hour, so they know someone’s not coming out," said Lt. Tom Orr with CCSO.
To combat the issue, deputies are spending time in the plazas.
"We're just looking for stuff that is out of the ordinary," said Sgt. Dale Dear with CCSO. "So we’re driving around and checking for people in their cars and in areas where they shouldn’t be."
On Wednesday morning, they found several cars either unlocked or with expensive items in plain sight on the passenger seat or in the back.
They also went up to several people to educate them about the importance of locking their car and hiding those valuables.
Some told deputies they did not lock their car, while others say it's a habit.
"I always got my car locked and I don’t keep anything visible in the backseat," said Nicole Hughes.
Others say they're always aware of their surroundings.
"I look every time I get out of the place and see if any people are looking at me or not," said Giovanni Pastucci. "Double checking everything."
Thieves are not only looking at what inside your vehicle, but the outside.
"A higher end vehicle, newer model, and the exterior windows are out," Dear said. "That tells me the key fob is with the vehicle and the vehicle is unlocked."
It's a concern for deputies and business owners, like Patrick Esce of Nutrition Elite.
"If it’s really early morning or not time, I will definitely remind them to lock up and that’s usually when bad stuff happens," he explained.
Deputies say they can patrol and educate people, but to deter this crime, they also need your help.
"A lot of people don’t lock their vehicle and they feel like It’s safe," one deputy said. "And it is very safe, however, we want to remind them to keep their vehicle locked."