TAMPA — A brazen group of crooks broke into an auto dealership early Friday and pulled off a mass theft, according to police.
In all, the thieves made off with eight vehicles around dawn from Prespa Auto Sales at 6828 N Florida Ave. and damaged 14 others, according to Tampa police.
Two of the stolen vehicles, a 2012 Dodge Ram pickup and a 2005 BMW, have been recovered, the latter after it was involved in a single-car crash on Interstate 4 and abandoned.
Police say surveillance video shows 10 people, thought to be young males, arrived in a Honda Odyssey around 6:40 a.m.
The minivan had been stolen in Orlando, where police think the thieves may be linked to a group of criminals.
Two of the young men broke into the dealership office, locating a box containing keys to the cars in the lot, video shows.
The other sifted through them. They then distributed keys to the rest of the group waiting in the parking lot.
The thieves fanned out to their corresponding vehicles, climbed inside and lined up for the exit, some smashing into other cars as they did, video shows.
The driver of the Odyssey, which had been circling the block, rammed the exit gate, allowing his accomplices to parade out of the lot, seven heading east and one west. They were gone by 7:15 a.m.
Police are urging dealers to be vigilant and consider stepping up preventive measures, such as increasing lighting, installing alarms and surveillance cameras, and securing car keys in a safe or off the dealership premises in non-business hours.
Other tips include increasing lighting on the lots, locking all car doors and putting the extra keys in a safe or take them off the property. Authorities think the suspects in this crime are actually part of a bigger crime group based in Orlando.
They have been in contact with investigators there to try and catch this group.
Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the suspects in this case.