It's a trend people are calling car hopping and it's happening often in northwest Florida. And believe it or not, local police say it's the car owners that are contributing to their own victimization.
Car hopping is the idea of seeking out dozens of unlocked vehicles within a small area in order to get in and steal valuables.
Panama City Police say they're taking multiple reports from people who say their unlocked vehicles have been entered and property has been stolen.
Newschannel 7 and the Panama City Police Department teamed up to check out some local crowded parking lots. In just one row a very large parking lot, we found five cars with windows cracked, doors unlocked or valuables left in plain view.
Thieves are heavily targeting items like GPS's, radio systems, sunglasses, wallets and even tools and sports equipment. We stopped the owner of a vehicle who left their Ipod in plain view. He said he was just running in to pick up a paycheck real quick. Sergeant Becker with the Panama City Police Department says it could be that one time you are quickly running in somewhere and you forget to lock your that you become the next victim.
Becker says it's rare that locked vehicles are forced open and thefts committed. If vehicles are secure and valuables are hidden from sight, would-be criminals will likely shy away. We looked around a commercial parking lot, but Becker points out thieves also roam neighborhoods looking for unlocked, parked vehicles. Again, the best remedy is to simply lock your car.