Sheriff's deputies continue to investigate whether any connections exist between a recent geographically-clustered series of crimes in Osprey, which occurred within less than a week.
According to Sheriff's Office crime reports, over the span of six days, from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20, four crimes (three vehicle burglaries and one burglary at a church) occurred in Osprey within a quarter-mile radius of each other along a stretch of U.S. 41 just past the intersection with Bay Street.
Two of the vehicle burglaries involved items stolen from docked boats on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15. The crimes occurred less than 1,000 feet from one another and appear to be related, according to Sheriff's Office reports.
The crime report from the Jan. 14 incident stated: "There have been several other thefts at this location, and in the surrounding areas."
In addition to the thefts from the boats, Sheriff's deputies also responded to the Jan. 19 theft of a multi-purpose edger, weeder and blower from an outdoor shed at the Church of the Holy Spirit, and the theft of two lawn trimmers from a truck parked at a nearby Walmart on Jan. 20 — two crimes similar in nature, and, according to Sheriff's Office crime map data, occurred about 1,000 feet from each other.
Four crimes within the span of one week is unusual for that area of Sarasota County. According to historical crime data, 29 thefts, burglaries and robberies occurred within a mile of the four recent crimes over the past year — a rate of 0.56 crimes per week.
The timing, location and similar nature of the four crimes prompted the Sarasota Sheriff's Office to investigate whether there might be a common link.
Crime analysts working for the agency's Crime Analysis Unit (CAU) routinely monitor crime in Sarasota County to identify trends and hot spots, plot that data on a map, and then overlay that information with the location of known offenders and suspects that specialized TAC units have identified in the field and routinely monitor.
Sarasota Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Wendy Rose said CAU analysts identified the four Osprey crimes as a possible hot spot, highlighting them in the agency's weekly law enforcement bulletin. Analysts then cross-checked the crime data against suspects and known offenders in the area.
Rose said one suspect has been identified, but more details were unavailable due to the ongoing status of the investigation.
The crime report related to the burglary at the Church of the Holy Spirit also stated that the responding deputy's search for the stolen items in a nearby homeless camp turned up empty.
The spread of homeless camps throughout Sarasota County last year prompted some area law enforcement experts to express concerns about the potential for homelessness-related crimes to start popping up in areas around the county where that kind of activity is typically not seen.
While the investigations are ongoing, however, it remains unclear whether there is any link between the homeless camp located behind the church and any of the four crimes.
The CAU is one pillar of Sheriff Tom Knight's intelligence-led policing program, known as I2A. Knight and other agency personnel credit the I2A program for a dramatic reduction in crime in Sarasota County — overall crime has dropped 28% since Knight stepped into the county's top law-enforcement spot in 2009.
According to FBI uniform crime reporting data for Sarasota County, since 2009 violent crimes have also dropped by 35% and Part I offenses (considered "serious crimes by the FBI) are down by 34%.
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