When a man allegedly broke into a Longboat Key residence last week, he probably had no idea the homeowner was watching him — and relaying information to police in real time.
At around 2:18 p.m. July 8, the owner of a home in the 600 block of Buttonwood Drive called police after his motion-detector alarm was activated. He logged into the system to monitor the video cameras installed around the house and called police immediately when he saw a man entering his home’s rear window.
Police say that after securing the exterior of the residence, they started to enter the home when they found 53-year-old Charles Joseph Griffith Jr. exiting the home through a sliding glass door.
Griffith told police he is a transient and has relatives who live on Longboat Key, according to a news release. Police describe Griffith as “a career criminal with a lengthy history of burglaries and drug-related charges.” He has been previously identified as a suspect in prior thefts and residential burglaries on the Key that remain under investigation, according to police.
Griffith was charged with one count of residential burglary. On Monday night, he remained in the Sarasota County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond. Jail records show Griffith has been arrested in Sarasota County on five previous occasions for burglary, petit theft and violating probation since 2009.
Longboat Key police had previously interviewed Griffith about a burglary at the north end in which a purse was stolen after they found him near the scene, according to Police Chief Pete Cumming, although Griffith was not arrested. Police are investigating whether Griffith was involved in several cases that have occurred on the Key since April.
Cumming said the homeowner’s camera system allowed for effective communication with dispatch.
“They’re becoming more popular now that they’re becoming more inexpensive and more companies are making them,” said Cumming, who estimates similar systems are now available for $500 or less.
“I think this is wonderful, second only to my license cameras,” he said, jokingly.
Cumming said neighbors who witnessed the burglary were surprised the break-in occurred during the day.
“It’s shocking because everyone thinks the burglars are coming in at 2:30 a.m. instead of 2:30 p.m.,” he said. “But broad daylight is when the majority occur.”
Police don’t know whether burglaries and other property crimes increase on the Key during the summer, when many residences are empty, because residents often don’t know they have been victimized until they return to town.
“Unless we catch them in the act, people don’t get notified until they’re back in the area,” Cumming said.
Click here to view Longboat Key property crime statistics.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]