Central Florida neighborhoods see increase in 'carhoppers'

Several cars hit on same day in Orange County neighborhood

By Lisa Bell - Anchor

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A warning about your car. New home surveillance video shows so-called carhoppers-- people who go from car to car checking to see if they're unlocked-- stealing what they can.

Carhoppers can hit an entire subdivision in just minutes.

Statewide, thefts from cars were actually down 3.8% from 2011-2010, according to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But parts of Central Florida are seeing a dramatic increase. In Orange County, thefts from cars were up 10.5% in 2011. In Brevard, thefts were up 4.9%, Osceola up 2.7% and Sumter up 3.5%.

On July 18th, around 3:15 in the morning, at least five more cars were hit in the Country Chase subdivision in Orange County, right off Apopka-Vineland and Silver Star Roads.

Private Investigator Paul Marr is kicking himself for accidentally leaving his two vehicles unlocked.

He caught the carhoppers on his home surveillance camera. They stole money, tools and flashlights from his vehicles.

"I'd like to see them stopped because they aren't going to stop," said Marr.
"What's called 'carhopping' is actually a crime of opportunity," said Orange County Sheriff's Corporal Marcus Camacho.

Cpl. Camacho says its hard to know just how many of the 8,000 vehicles that were broken into in Orange County last year were unlocked.

You can easily prevent a crime of opportunity by removing your valuables, locking your doors, and calling officers whenever you see someone suspicious.

"We would much rather come out and be sure that nothing's going on than come out and take a report for six vehicle burglaries," said Cpl. Camacho.

Marr has now filled out an on-line sheriff's report and posted his home surveillance video on you tube hoping someone will soon spot and stop these car hoppers.

"They're just going to continue doing this and it's going to go to bigger things because this is going to start boring them, they'll be bored with this," said Marr.
In an unusual twist to that surveillance video, later on July 18th around 10:30pm, three 16-year-old boys allegedly broke into a home just a few houses down from Marr.

Those teens are accused of brutally beating-up Esteban Calderon, 67, who lived there. Calderon died four days later.

Marr says he was unaware of that crime when he filled out an online sheriff's report on July 19.

In his report, he told deputies he had surveillance video, but he never heard from the sheriff's office. We brought the surveillance video to the sheriff's office attention. They are now reviewing it to see if it may be connected to that home invasion and murder.

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