EAST COUNTY — The last time it was burglarized, in May, Johnson PhotoImaging installed video cameras so it wouldn’t happen again.
“Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough,” said Michael Arbor, the general manager of the photography store located just east of Braden River High School, along State Road 70.
In a scene reminiscent of the first one, two burglars stole $32,000 in merchandise from the store at around 8:20 p.m. Oct. 13, smashing a window, triggering an alarm and driving off in a Chrysler minivan in less than three minutes.
Surveillance video captured the incident, but didn’t provide much help.
Arbor said the store has contacted vendors to replace cameras, lenses and flashes, just like it did in May, when burglars broke in and stole more than $100,000 in cameras and camera lenses in a matter of minutes.
“It’s daunting, too, but we have to go on,” Arbor said. “We will continue to do what we can to help customers.”
The first incident is still unsolved, and Dave Bristow, public information director for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, does not know if the two incidents are related.
Bristow says the store’s proximity to Interstate 75, and the nature of the expensive products it sells, make it ripe for burglars.
The sheriff’s office has more to go on than last time, with the video, but it still has no witnesses.
Detectives have also contacted Tampa-area pawnshops, in case the burglars try to cash in on the equipment.
“This sort of thing is a little unusual,” Bristow said. “You usually get your 7-Eleven break-ins and break-ins of residences. What they’re doing with this stuff (the equipment) is another story. You don’t rule out anything when you don’t have any direct evidence.”
Bristow says, with the rise of the Internet, more burglars are coming from outside the area.
Arbor said he had talked to four other camera stores in the state, including ones in Melbourne and Jacksonville that recently had been burglarized.
He doesn’t know what he can do differently. The store’s doors and windows are reinforced. The video cameras will remain in place.
“I’m sure you think, ‘There’s no way this can happen again,’” Bristow said. “But you have to be concerned it can happen again. You feel bad for the business owner.”
Bristow encourages anyone with tips to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-634-8477.
The driver of the Chrysler is described as a thin male wearing a black T-shirt, dark jeans, black shoes and gloves with a multi-colored hat and a dark shirt wrapped around his face.
The passenger, whose gender is unknown, has dark hair and wore a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, dark jeans and light-colored shoes with a white shirt wrapped around the face.
The staff at PhotoImaging vows to continue business. It says traffic at the store has stayed the same since the latest incident.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].