Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crime Rates Spotlight Hot Trends Best Avoided; Thieves on the Cutting Edge Are Updating Old Tricks and Refining New Ones, Cops Say

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crime Rates Spotlight Hot Trends Best Avoided; Thieves on the Cutting Edge Are Updating Old Tricks and Refining New Ones, Cops Say

Article excerpt

Byline: DANA TREEN

When Tim Tadlock climbed to the bridge of his 55-foot motor yacht at a Jacksonville marina late last month and saw dangling wires once attached to an electronics display, one thing was clear.

"Whoever did it was in a hurry," he said of thieves who took the unit. "They knew exactly what they were after."

The theft fixed Tadlock as a victim of new trends in crimes that have thieves targeting high-tech stuff such as global positioning units, laptop computers and catalytic converters.

Tadlock, who also has experienced burglaries at businesses he owns, said he had outfitted his boat with alarms, top to bottom.

"It's not to the point where I carry a gun," he said, "but it is certainly where I think about moving out of here."

Tadlock said it will cost $3,000 to replace his stolen display unit that showed GPS, radar, autopilot and ocean-depth information, while he guesses thieves will get about $200 for what they stole.

At another marina in Jacksonville, 19 boats were broken into and ransacked Feb. 20. In some cases, owners couldn't find handheld GPS units or radios, though it wasn't clear in those cases if the gear was stolen or misplaced.

Today's criminals also are finding new ways to commit old crimes, authorities said.

In Broward County, Sheriff Ken Jenne produced and appeared in a public service announcement targeting car burglars who do their work as victims are distracted at a gas pump or some other way. In the announcement, surveillance video shows a car driving up beside a sport utility vehicle at a gas station. While the unsuspecting driver pumps gas, the thief uses the bulky size of the sport utility vehicle as cover to sneak into the passenger side and steal what is on the seat.

Purses, laptops and other valuables from iPods to BlackBerrys can disappear in seconds, Jenne warns.

The theft of accessories has hit automobile owners hard, too.

According to the FBI, those thefts jumped nearly 30 percent between 2000 and 2004.

That includes items such as xenon headlights and the 75,000 air bags stolen each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Replacing air bags alone costs insurance companies and consumers more than $50 million a year.

Air bags cost about $1,000 to replace but sell for $200 on the black market. Xenon headlight sets can cost $1,500 or more.

Thieves are going beneath cars to mine their treasure, stealing catalytic converters that contain precious metals that can bring remarkable profits. In addition to being valuable in cutting pollution, platinum can bring $1,200 an ounce, rhodium $6,025 and palladium nearly $350.

Criminals adapt to the patterns of potential victims to get at the things they want to steal. At gyms, they will wait in a parking lot for women who leave purses in their cars, said detective Jim Sanford of the St. …

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