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Burglars get big haul from unlocked Riomar home

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of May 23, 2013)

Jerry Van Tuyl didn’t lock his Riomar house when he and his wife left on May 11 to run a quick errand. But if he knew then what he knows now, he said, he sure would have secured his home. The Van Tuyls say burglars took silver and jewelry with an estimated replacement value of $80,000 from their home during the 40 short minutes they were out.

“Oh my God,” said Van Tuyl, when he learned that from May 1, 2012, to May 1 of this year, Vero Beach police investigated 54 cases of burglaries to homes or businesses within the city limits on the island. “I had no idea.  If I would have known, I would have locked the door all the time.”

That would be wise, said Vero Beach police Capt. Keith Touchberry.  But while it offers little comfort to the Van Tuyls, city police say beachside burglaries are in fact down sharply since the beginning of the year compared to the same period in 2012. 

While 25 burglaries were reported in the first four months last year, only 9 took place from January through April this year, police said.  Touchberry said the island burglaries were a mix of homes being entered when owners left their doors unlocked, and cases of forced break-in.

On the night their house was robbed, the Van Tuyls’ biggest concern had been dinner.  The couple had just popped their meal into the oven and set the timer before heading out.

The thief or thieves who robbed the Van Tuyls filled two pillowcases taken from the couple’s bedroom with jewelry, fine china, sterling silver tea sets and cash. 

The couple has lived in their Riomar home since 2001.  While the island has a much lower crime rate than many mainland areas, police remind residents that homeowners everywhere need to be security minded.

“Protect your stuff,” said Touchberry. “Lock your cars and houses and don’t leave things in plain sight.”