DARIEN — Police highly suspect recent car break-ins at the Darien YMCA parking lot are the work of the Felony Lane Gang, an organized crime group that works on the East Coast.

On Dec. 2 around 7:30 a.m., two purses were stolen from cars parked in the YMCA parking lot after two men smashed the windows of both vehicles and stole the purses hidden inside them. Police said this type of burglary is characteristic of the gang, which often targets parking lots of busy areas in affluents towns where they know people often leave valuables in their cars.

According to police, the Felony Lane Gang has victimized Darien several times in the past and police have arrested several members out of the hundreds who are part of the group. Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello said many law enforcement agencies around the country are working on following the group, which is based out of southern Florida, and tracking its known members.

“This is a very, very large operation with hundreds of members operating up and down the East Coast,” Lovello said at a police commission meeting Dec. 7. “They stay in hotels up and down the East Coast…they use rented cars. There’s a hierarchy. It’s an organized group, very prolific.”

Lovello said residents can prevent becoming victims of the Felony Lane Gang by locking their cars and not leaving valuables inside, as the gang can usually tell if valuables are hidden within a vehicle. (At the Darien YMCA, the purses were hidden behind a reclined seat and a jacket; police say the gang is sophisticated enough to see through those forms of concealment.)

“We try to drive home the message: Lock your cars and don’t leave your valuables inside,” he said.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata