NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Surveillance video from Soniat Street shows a group of young men breaking into cars, but there are no smashed windows or broken locks. Residents believe crooks used high-tech devices to unlock the doors.
It's close to six in the morning on Soniat, near Freret, when four guys walk into frame. You can see one pull on a door handle, helping himself to what's inside this unlocked car. Then, a man approaches a car parked in a driveway. Before he yanks on the handle, it appears as though he uses some sort of device in his pocket to unlock the car.
Residents in the area believe it was an illegal device, imitating a car fob.
"You can buy this key fob for about $150 on the Internet," said one Freret-area resident who asked to remain anonymous.
He thinks thieves have hit his car more than once this way.
"The first time it happened, that was my first thought, 'oh, I forgot to lock my car.' But after it happened two more times, I realized something fishy was going on," he said.
The local says it's one thing to rummage through an unlocked car.
"This takes it to a different level," he said.
"Recently, it's been coming up a little more in the shop," said Adam Sims, manager at Mobile Tint and Audio on South Carrollton.
Sims says he caught wind of the fake fobs when customers came in, trying to find a way around them.
"At first, I thought it was just silly to think it was possible," said Sims. "But then I started to do some research for myself and realized the devices are out there. They're accessible to almost anybody. I was able to find a place to purchase it online just after about 30 minutes."
Unfortunately, Sims says the only way to get around the device is to install a completely new system.
"They can lock the car. You come back to the vehicle, your car was locked. You get in it, you're like, 'oh my gosh! My stuff's gone!' You feel like a ghost stole it, but that's really what happened. Someone was in your vehicle without you knowing," Sims explained.
While NOPD says most car break-ins are avoidable if you lock your car and remove your valuables, officers confirm key fobs present a serious weakness in security.
They say amplifiers can detect key signals from up to 300 feet away. It's why they recommend you keep your fob far away from your car, wrap it in foil or store it in a foil-lined box.
"I put it in a drawer towards the rear of my house and maybe that's why on this last event, a couple weeks ago, they weren't able to get in my car," said the Soniat Street resident.
Sims adds, not all cars all susceptible to these devices. He also says thieves can't actually steal your vehicle, they can only get inside.