Rash of car break-ins hitting Palm Beach County

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 18:04:56-05

Police across Palm Beach County continue to investigate a rash of car break-ins.

Surveillance footage shows a man breaking into one car in Boynton Beach last month. Victims wonder if he's the same culprit who struck nearly 40 cars within a mile of each other in West Palm Beach Monday night.

"I guess they thought I had something," one woman says standing outside her SUV.

A man broke into it and about ten other cars at a Boynton Beach condo complex on November 20.

A surveillance camera shows a man breaking the glass window of a car using a tool, probably a center punch.

For this woman, having the suspect on the run is nerve-racking. She didn't want to identify herself, saying she's afraid the burglar may come back and target her.

"I feel violated and now I wake up almost every night and I have to come down and check on my car," she say.  "I'm afraid they're going to do it again."

West Palm Beach police are looking for surveillance video of break-ins in the city from Monday night. The department is also stepping up patrols near parking lots which were hit, including the Tri-Rail station.

The Boynton Beach woman says it cost $500 to replace her window, but she won't have peace of mind until someone is in jail.

"It's frustrating, they need to be caught, they can't keep going from neighborhood to neighborhood taking whatever they want and we get stuck with the bill," she says.

In many recent cases, burglars are breaking windows, not simply looking for unlocked doors.

Police say many thieves use a tool called a center punch. It's the same thing firefighters use to break your window if you end up underwater.

An old trick is ganging popularity again. Police in Boynton Beach say they've found thieves using spark plugs to break windows.

The crew at Zuccala's Wrecker Service explains how it works. Thieves break the porcelain, or ceramic, part off a spark plug and then throw it at the car window.

It shatters the glass, then thieves push it out of the way.

Thieves use this trick because they can ditch a piece of a spark plug a lot easier than a hammer, or a center punch, if they see police officers.

Experts say tinted windows hold up better, but there is really nothing to keep your window from breaking. 

"It's very hard. If a single parent wakes up in the morning and comes out and the window's busted, they don't have the money to fix it, what are they going to do," Donald Melvil, with Zuccala's, laments.

Police say surveillance video is the best deterrent. The same advice still applies: Don't leave valuables in your car, especially in plain sight, install an alarm and park in well-lit areas.

If you have any information about who might be breaking into cars, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-8477

Here are some stats on the number of reported car break-ins:

Boynton Beach
2014 410
2015 719

West Palm Beach
2014 1,027
2013 984
2012 1,127
2011 1124
2010 1,078

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
2014 2,670
2013 2,592
2012 2,989
2011 2,967
2010 3,201