A gang of burglars is targeting cars in parking lots and committing smash-and-grab burglaries across Connecticut.
They're known as the "Felony Lane Gang".
Police say the gang is about 700 members strong. They've hit in more than 40 states and racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for victims.
Just last month, a crew from the Felony Lane Gang hit the Darien YMCA. The latest incident followed the typical scenario: a three-member crew with a simple plan, smash and grab, according to Darien police Sgt. Jerry Marron.
"Three separate vehicles had windows broken, and purses, credit cards, checks removed," Marron said.
Former FBI Assistant Director Louis Grever has tracked the crime ring for several years. He now works with "The Wynyard Group" developing crime analytics. Grever says "Felony Lane Gang" captains are based in Florida and the crews limit their exposure by moving from town to town.
"They'll recruit local talent, drug users, people down on their luck, and they'll ask for a cut of the proceeds and them to do the at-risk work, like breaking into cars and windows," said Grever. "The trademark of the Felony Lane Gang: take stolen checks and try to negotiate them in that far outside lane of that local bank, sometimes using disguises and wigs to look like the person they stole the credit card or check from."
Grever said once a crew leaves a targeted town, the bosses in Florida take theft to the next, more damaging level.
"This group is smart enough that when they go back and aggregate these things, they'll be able to take advantage of these identity documents long term. They'll set up false identities, they'll order credit cards under those names," Grever said.
In the Darien case, police tracked a white SUV to a motel in West Haven and arrested 3 men from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All three are behind bars and are set to enter pleas within the next two weeks. In all, detectives seized $74,000 in stolen goods.
At this point, investigators have connected burglaries in more than a dozen Connecticut towns, from Stamford to Wallingford to Waterford. Darien detectives are working with the other local police departments and making progress with the elusive gang for first time, but they say public awareness is equally important.
"When you're going to daycare centers and fitness centers, don't leave valuables visible in the car," Sgt. Marron said.
Police warn you shouldn't assume valuables are safe in the trunk. They say you should think twice about carrying multiple checks and identity documents and keep phone numbers in your contact list to alert your credit card companies or banks immediately, if you're purse or wallet is stolen.
Police have also set up a Felony Lane Gang Task Force Facebook page to spread information with the public about the latest crimes and what you should look out for.