Deputies suspected bored teens are the reason dozens of cars have been burglarized in recent months.
A rash of auto burglaries at northern Hillsborough apartment complexes prompted sheriff's deputies to form a task force to address the problem.
Sgt. Skip James said since Tuesday, 23 deputies have been concentrating their efforts on a type of crime that has increased over the summer, with dozens of these burglaries occurring last weekend.
James said between Saturday night and Sunday morning, 16 cars were broken into at the Fox Croft Apartments at 3904 Hunt Road in Carrollwood. In addition, eight cars were burglarized between Friday and Sunday at the Waterford Apartments, Cypress Lakes Apartments and Ginger Cover Apartments.
"We have lots of stereos gone, and $14 in coins," said James, who attributes the thefts to juveniles. "We're ready for school to start."
James, who works out of the sheriff's District III office, said the two clusters of burglaries appeared to each be the work of the same group, although he couldn't say with certainty that all were related.
The methods were similar: The suspects smashed windows and pried locks to get inside, he said.
In the sheriff's District I office, deputies were investigating five auto burglaries that occurred at different apartment complexes near the University of South Florida.
There appears to be a pattern that concentrates on apartments in the area east of Bruce B Downs, north of Fowler Avenue and west of Interstate 75, said Sgt. Fred Asteasuainzarra.
So how can car owners protect themselves?
"Park in a lighted area, roll up the windows and lock the doors," James said. An alarm may or may not help. "Alarms are so common place now, people generally ignore them," he said.
James suggested having an obvious anti-theft device for your car, such as a steering wheel locking device. "You tend to have cars not broken into that have those devices," he said. "It's psychological."