Like 84% of break-ins that occur Keywide, the 13 vehicles that were recently burglarized in the Longbeach Village had unlocked doors.
When Michael Valentino and Laura Gomes woke up Jan. 22, they discovered both their cars had been rifled through, and they were missing approximately $10 in change. Their 8:38 a.m. call was among the first of 10 calls and reports the Longboat Key Police Department handled Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, for a total of 13 vehicle burglaries.
All of the vehicle burglaries have one common theme that frustrates Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming: Every car that was burglarized was unlocked, while other cars that were locked weren’t touched.
“Every annual report I’ve done indicates that approximately 84% of our break-ins each year are because of unlocked doors,” Cumming said. “It’s frustrating, and we ask all residents to lock their doors because it’s a simple theft deterrent.”
The report filed by Valentino and Gomes was the only one that noted a suspicious dark blue car parked on Reclinata Drive.
“My neighbor thought I had an overnight guest, and I thought he had an overnight guest,” Valentino said.
Valentino said he believes the burglar(s) were only interested in easy cash.
“I had $10,000 worth of kite-surfing equipment in the car that wasn’t even touched,” Valentino said.
Stephanie Claussen and Todd Cunningham were the first north-end residents to report that someone broke into their two vehicles.
Just before 5 a.m. Jan. 22, Cunningham heard the horn in his Ford Expedition SUV go off in their driveway.
When he went to a front window to look at his vehicle, he saw what he described to police as a “tall, lanky man” run north to the alley behind their home and disappear.
Police believe the suspect accidentally bumped the horn while rifling through the vehicle, which was missing $20 in change and had papers taken from the open glove box strewn about its interior.
Claussen then found that her Mini Cooper was missing miscellaneous change and had papers from the glove box all over the floor.
Police couldn’t lift fingerprints from many vehicles because it was a rainy morning but found size 11 or 12 footprints they believe were boots leading to and from Claussen’s and Cunningham’s vehicles.
While Cumming has reported that weather events like tropical storm flooding can sometimes lead to an increase in burglaries, he doesn’t believe that’s the case with the recent crimes.
“It’s possible, but not likely in this instance,” Cumming said. “This was a classic case of someone looking for easy cash.”
All 13 cars that were burglarized had papers from glove boxes scattered through the interiors and were missing loose change under $50 and some other miscellaneous items.
Longboat Key Sgt. Detective Robert Bourque said he is following up on some “loose leads” and has been unable to find the suspicious dark blue car that Valentino reported seeing through the license plate camera recognition cameras.
A few latex prints were also lifted from vehicles later reported as burglarized over the next two days and are being analyzed.
Police also obtained a key chain and key labeled for a bank safety deposit box that the owner claimed didn’t belong to him in one of the cars that was burglarized. But that key later was discovered stolen from one of the other cars and was dropped by the suspect in another burglarized vehicle.
One police report also states that video footage obtained from a neighbor reveals a “tall man, wearing possibly shorts and dark shoes and a hoodie-type jacket that was concealing his head and face” walking toward a Lexus in the 6500 block of Bayou Hammock Road before disappearing from the video. The unlocked Lexus was burglarized, and a letter the suspect touched in the car was processed for fingerprints.
A Mercedes-Benz car parked across the street from the Lexus was locked and was not burglarized.
Another resident on Longboat Drive South informed police he believes his former lawn service man could be involved in the burglaries.
Bourque believes all break-ins occurred Jan. 22.
“We’re asking all residents to call us if they see anything suspicious and to please lock their cars,” Bourque said.