Cleveland police confirm car thieves are targeting car keys stored inside used car lots as a means to steal multiple vehicles.
Police have responded to several break-ins and used car thefts along Detroit, Pearl and Lorain Avenues in recent months.
The most recent case took place at Richland Motors on Pearl Road when a suspect walked into the dealership, distracted the clerk, grabbed a set of keys and drove off with a 2007 Jeep Compass.
The suspect's picture was captured on security cameras.
Cleveland Police second district Detective Robert Beveridge says it's a good idea for used car dealerships to consider taking keys to all vehicles home with them when they close for the night. He says crooks are more brazen than ever before.
"The level of these crooks just amazes me out here now," said Beveridge. "They're doing just about anything and everything at any hours of the night, with cameras, without cameras. They don't seem to care anymore."
"Burglars are actually coming in specifically looking for car keys," said Michael Denning, manager of Big Joe's Auto Sales on Detroit Avenue. "A lot of us, and even myself, hang them off a hook, have them near-by. They see them, they take them, and they come back at a later date and take cars."
Denning says he's now been forced to take all vehicle keys home with him at the end of the day, just like Beveridge suggests.
"It's a shame we have to do that," Denning said.
Denning says thieves are stealing cars and any car parts they can get their hands on.
"They come in here, they steal the batteries, the converters, they break into the buildings."
He says more used car dealers are adding motion control cameras, additional fencing and keeping dogs in their buildings overnight.
Cleveland police are asking anyone with information about the car theft at Richland Motors to contact Detective Janet Murphy at 216-623-5218, or email her at JMurphy3@city.cleveland.oh.us