of the Lee County Sheriff's Office's auto theft unit.The agency has dealt with numerous organized groups in the past year, he
"We'll go through periods of time where we don't have any incidents like that, and then, all of a sudden, it will start back up again," Pakulis
...In the past, car thieves typically would try to ship the stolen cars out of the country, but Pakulis, of the Lee Sheriff's Office, said that has become more difficult because of increased port security since Sept. 11, 2001.
said, thieves try to sell the vehicles in the U.S. by stealing the identity of a similar vehicle in another state and assigning it to the car â€" a process called cloning.
"People who buy used vehicles need to be aware of what they're buying," Pakulis
Even more importantly, dealerships and individuals alike need to be careful with their keys, Pakulis
said.About 90 percent of the auto thefts Pakulis' unit has worked this year involved cases where thieves got hold of the car's keys.
"They don't always steal the car right then and there," he