LAKEWOOD RANCH — Policing authorities may have put an end to a rash of vehicle burglaries in the Lakewood Ranch area thanks to the help of an eyewitness who reported the burglaries as they occurred.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested two teenagers around 2:08 a.m., Oct. 20, near the 8100 block of Nature’s Way.
David Stuckey, 19, and Stephen Marland, 18, have been charged with four vehicle burglaries in Colonial Grand. Additional charges are pending because the youths also admitted to committing burglaries to unlocked vehicles in the Summerfield community, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow said.
“They’ve been charged with four (vehicle burglaries), probably more,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out exactly how many (burglaries for which they are responsible).”
The crimes each amount to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail.
A sheriff’s office report states a deputy was dispatched to Colonial Grand just after 2 a.m., Oct. 20, after a witness observed the two suspects enter a vehicle and try the handles of several other vehicles. The witness flagged down the deputy as he arrived and pointed out the vehicle in which the suspects had fled.
The deputy stopped the vehicle, separated the suspects and read them their Miranda rights, the report states. Both Stuckey and Marland admitted to entering unlocked vehicles in Colonial Grand and in Summerfield. They also admitted to committing other vehicle burglaries in the past within the county.
Neither Marland nor Stuckey have any prior arrests as adults, Bristow said.
Bristow said witness’s action played a crucial role in apprehending the burglars.
“That’s what led to the resolution of this, is people getting involved,” Bristow said. “I don’t know that this case would have been closed without the help of the public. You have to get some cooperation from the public, and that’s exactly what happened here.”
Bristow said residents should keep their eyes open for suspicious activities and should be diligent to secure their belongings, making sure to lock their car doors and remove valuables from their vehicles before going to bed each night.
“When people look into these vehicles, if they see valuables, that’s what makes them make forced entry into the vehicle,” he said. “Make sure you don’t leave (items) in plain view. If they look into a car and don’t see anything, they probably won’t (enter the vehicle).”
Bristow also said residents should bring their garage door openers inside rather than leaving them in their cars.
“One thing we want to stress is a lot of times in these vehicle burglaries, they will take the garage door openers, and the vehicle burglary will turn into a house burglary — if not at that time, later,” he said.
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