A multi-agency effort led to the arrest of three men who burglarized about 40 homes, including two on Longboat Key.
Their method was simple.
Break a window or kick in a door, then wait down the street to see if police came. If no one responded, the burglars would pull their car into the victims’ garage and load them up with televisions and other items.
That’s how Zachary Stein, Austin Hale and Jimmy Harris allegedly burglarized more than 40 homes throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties, including some in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
On Feb. 7, they came to Longboat Key and broke into one home, taking a television, and attempted to break into another.
“They had done so many burglaries in Manatee,” said Sgt. Robert Bourque, who helped investigate the case. “They were expanding. They were hot. We would have continued to get burglaries until they were captured.”
They had already burglarized two homes in Holmes Beach and West Bradenton, according to a police report released recently, after the investigation concluded, before coming to the 500 blocks of Rountree Lane and Yardarm Lane. They threw brick pavers at one glass door but couldn’t shatter it, and after giving up on that, used a hammer to break the glass of a door at the second home, gaining entry and stealing a television.
Investigators from Holmes Beach got the license number of the vehicle used from a surveillance tape, and Longboat Key dispatch confirmed using a license plate recognition system that they were on the key at the time of the break-ins here. Manatee County Sherrif’s officers eventually caught the vehicle after it fled into Sarasota County.
Bourque and Sgt. Brian Hall of the Holmes Beach Police Department interviewed one of the suspects after he’d been taken into custody, Bourque said, and Zachary Stein cooperated, confessing to multiple burglaries and attempted burglaries including the two on Longboat Key. He later accompanied officers, including Bourque, on ride-alongs showing them the scenes of several other burglaries.
Bourque also said he has reason to believe the burglars had access to firearms, including an AK-47, an AR-15 and a .40 caliber handgun. Those guns, and others, were seized during a search warrant execution related to this case.
As a result of the cooperation between multiple agencies in two counties, all three suspects have been captured.