MANATEE COUNTY — After a weekend trip to Atlanta, Mark and Lisa Edenfield pulled up to their Mill Creek home July 26 to see police cars parked at a neighbor’s house.
Their concern grew when they realized their vehicle in the driveway had been burglarized — just like their neighbors’ cars.
“It’s scary to think about,” Lisa Edenfield said. “You don’t know if they are going to terrorize your community. I hope (the police) catch them.”
The Edenfields’ vehicle was one of 29 that have been burglarized in the East County and North Manatee since June. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has reported five multiple-vehicle break-ins several neighborhoods, including River Club, Sugar Mill Lakes and Lakeside Preserve. Mill Creek was hit twice. In nearly every one of these cases, burglars have smashed car windows, taking items such as iPods, GPS units and laptop computers that were left in plain view.
Although year-to-date auto burglary statistics are down about 32% from 2008, Sheriff Brad Steube said the recent trends are causing the sheriff’s office to tighten security in both the East County and North Manatee.
“All of these things people are going after because they are valuable,” Steube said. “This really isn’t any different than what’s been going on. I’ve been preaching for almost two years about people not leaving their valuables in plain view.”
The sheriff’s office is using information from its police districting units to try to predict where burglars may strike next and will increase patrols in those areas — a move Steube said already is getting results.
In addition to added sheriff’s office support, some East County communities are mobilizing their own efforts to keep residents safe. Braden Woods resident Ed Berardi said sheriff’s office civilian deputies have canvassed his neighborhood, talking with residents and leaving informational fliers about the recent break-ins and how to help prevent them.
Lakewood Ranch CDD 1 Supervisors Phyllis Troy and Alan Roth said they continue to use every opportunity they can to keep residents informed.
“At every CDD meeting, or wherever we can get the word out, we try to tell people to lock their cars in the driveway and take everything out of it,” Troy said.
Roth said in his more than six years on the safety committee for his neighborhood, he estimates that at least 90% of vehicle break-ins occurred because a car was left unlocked or because valuables were in plain view.
Roth said in an informal survey of Summerield residents a few months ago, the majority of residents indicated that they felt patrols by Wackenhut security were helping to deter crime. Wackenhut officials do not have the legal authority to hold suspects or make arrests, but they can report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Wackenhut’s contract is expiring soon, and Troy said Lakewood Ranch CDDs will consider proposals from other security companies at the Aug. 20 CDD meeting. And although the service provider may change, the expectations and amount of service provided will not.
“We have the coverage we felt we needed,” Troy said.
Dep. Steve Ogline of the Crime Prevention Unit said the best way to deter crime is to take away the opportunity and report any suspicious activity.
Residents should make sure they lock their car doors each night and make sure to remove any valuables completely from their vehicle. They also should remove garage door openers and avoid programming cars to open the garage door.
“Once (criminals) get in to the garage, they are one step away from getting into the house,” he said.
Ogline said residents should report any suspicious activity they see immediately because doing so could prevent a break-in or help authorities catch suspects.
“If it makes you take a second look, it needs to be reported,” Ogline said. “We might not find the bad guy, but if we drive through, then usually they leave.”
Ogline also noted that deputies check with local pawnshops daily for stolen items such as laptops, which can be recovered if owners have the item’s serial number.
Contact Pam McTeer at email@example.com.
For a related story about a subsequent arrest in connection with the June 10 Mill Creek burglaries, click here.
Date: June 10
Streets: 200 to 800 block of 133rd Street East
Burglary details: Suspect(s) burglarized three vehicles by smashing windows. The fourth vehicle was unlocked.
Stolen: Two iPods, one Garmin GPS
Date: June 30
Streets: Various within subdivision
Burglary details: Suspect(s) burglarized five vehicles by smashing or prying open windows.
Stolen: Two laptops, a camera, CDs, a radar unit, two GPS systems and a headrest DVD system
Sugar Mill Lakes
Date: July 14
Streets: Various within subdivision
Burglary details: Suspect(s) burglarized nine vehicles. Some were unlocked, and others had their windows smashed.
Stolen: Stereos, a digital camera, wallets, a purse, an iPod and a drill and circular saw
Date: July 17
Streets: Pine Valley Street
Burglary details: Suspect(s) burglarized five vehicles were by smashing the windows.
Stolen: Electronics such as a camera, iPods and the attempted removal of a built in navigation system. One vehicle had nothing missing, and another one had a gym bag taken.
Dates: July 24-26
Streets: 13000 block of Fifth Avenue Northeast, 400 block of 137th Court Northeast and 13000 block of Fourth Avenue Northeast
Burglary details: Suspect(s) burglarized six unlocked vehicles on three different streets.
Stolen: Four car stereos, a GPS unit and a purse, wallet and currency
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