Arrests made in Sandy Creek Vehicle Break-ins, Residents Praised
Arrested…this is the word that applies to the suspects involved in the recent Sandy Creek-area vehicle burglaries, and Bloomingdale Little League attempted burglary that occurred on June 25. According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Master Deputy Curtis Warren at the Bloomingdale Area Community Council Meeting on July 24, four teenagers were apprehended and charged with 10 counts of vehicle burglary, one count of armed vehicle burglary (a loaded weapon was stolen), and one count of attempted burglary of a structure.
Residents of the Bloomingdale community played an important part in the positive outcome of this case. Once the burglaries were discovered and reported, law enforcement officials received home security camera footage from several Sandy Creek homeowners. In addition, the Bloomingdale Homeowners Association posted a resident-provided video still of one of the suspects “in the act” on the Association’s Facebook page and community website. That post went “community viral” with over 10,000 views and 135 shares.
Lead investigator Detective James Howell called resident help “crucial” to solving what are normally difficult cases. “I received more video coverage (on this case) than I have ever received,” said Howell. “The videos provided a critical piece to our investigation.”
With the Sandy Creek footage, he was able to link the suspects with another burglary attempt at the Bloomingdale Little League concessions building. Management of the facility supplied security footage as well, and connections were made which linked the incidents to the same individuals.
The teenagers were engaged in what Howell termed “car hopping.” He explained that groups, usually late teens and adults, will work together between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. pulling door handles on any vehicles parked on the street or driveways. With car hopping, groups will not normally use force to gain access. However, should a door be unsecured, the group will quickly look for anything valuable to steal. Video footage showed the burglaries, from start to finish, occurring in a matter of seconds.
In the Sandy Creek cases, the most significant item stolen was a loaded weapon, which carries a felony charge. With the arrests, the weapon has been recovered, but Howell stressed that gun owners need to write down serial numbers and keep the information with other important documents.
Some crimes are preventable, or can at least be made more difficult to perpetrate. Howell advised: lock car doors, keep any valuables in cars out of view, keep garage doors down (even if you are home), and be observant. “It is all about opportunity, and you just can’t create an opportunity for these guys (potential thieves).”
Master Deputy Warren echoed Howell’s statements, “You know who belongs in your neighborhood and who doesn’t. Write down license plate numbers and descriptions of vehicles and people. If it is potential evidence, report it.” If you have information pertaining to a crime, contact the Hillsborough County Dispatch Line at 247-8000.
(Editor’s Note: September’s Gazette will feature an article about Neighborhood Watch, Citizens Patrol, and other programs that can and do keep our community safe and secure.)