LITHIA — Hillsborough sheriff's officials have arrested three men accused of burglarizing dozens of vehicles in FishHawk Ranch.
Detectives say the men "car hopped," meaning they pulled on vehicles' doors took valuables from those that weren't locked.
Police say car hopping has been a problem in southeastern Hillsborough for months. Deputies say the burglars focus on neighborhoods and apartment complexes where there are many cars.
When burglars find an unlocked vehicle, they rummage through glove boxes and center consoles, grabbing valuables like GPS units, digital cameras, iPods, money and laptops, according to the Sheriff's Office. Car hopping usually occurs between midnight and 6 a.m., when most residents are asleep.
Detectives say three men entered the FishHawk Bridgewater neighborhood on May 23 and 24 and opened about a dozen vehicles. They took a wallet that had at least $2,200 in it, according to the Sheriff's Office. Other items reported missing include two watches, tools and a Sirius satellite radio.
On May 24 and 25, the men went to FishHawk's Skylark Crest, Gannet Glade and Tanager Ridge neighborhoods, deputies say. They estimate the men entered 40 to 60 cars.
On May 25 deputies arrested Jeremy Dennard, 19, Harry Noriega, 21, and Charles Gachot, 19, charging them with grand theft, petty theft and burglary in connection with the FishHawk car hopping.
A fourth man, Anthony Gibson, 31, was later arrested, accused by police of pawning one of the stolen GPS units for Dennard, deputies said.
Deputies have returned some of the stolen items to their owners. There are still unclaimed items including speakers, GPS units, jumper cables, a car jack and a portable air compressor, the Sheriff's Office said.
Detectives are still working to link other burglaries to the men, and more charges may be filed, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Victims who can properly identify their missing items should call Detective James C. Howell at (813) 247-0478.