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Central Beach hit by a rash of auto burglaries

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of June 18, 2015)

Over and over again, Vero Beach Police have been called by Central Beach residents reporting their unlocked vehicles had been burgled overnight. The most recent incidents last week prompted officers to issue a friendly reminder to do something slightly unnatural for long-time Vero residents: Please lock your car doors.

That’s the simple message the Vero Beach Police Department is planning to distribute via neighborhood crime-watch groups and community meetings. And to drive the message home, Public Information Officer Anna Carden is designing a door-hanger type placard for residents to display in their (hopefully locked) vehicles.

“It would be similar to the handicapped parking placards hung on the rear-view mirror,” Carden said. “And it would say this vehicle is locked, that there are no valuables in the vehicle, and that you will be reported to the police if you try to get into the vehicle.”

The tool is something Carden said she’s seen used successfully in other communities. If nothing else, it’s a daily reminder to the driver who looks at the dangling message to lock up and not leave valuables inside the car.

At a time when, according to Police Chief David Currey’s statements at last week’s city budget workshop, officers are “busier than ever,” it takes resources to document and investigate thefts of cell phones, money, credit cards, electronics or other property left unlocked as easy pickings for kids or other petty thieves.

Some residents even leave their car keys inside vehicles, which back in January resulted in a car being taken on a joy ride from Eagle Drive, ending up ditched in St. Lucie County.

The more recent crimes included the burglary at Sexton Plaza of a vehicle in which the driver had hidden the car key under the boardwalk and gone off to enjoy the beach.  Vero detectives arrested and charged the suspect for that theft after he was found with the stolen property at his Central Beach home.

Then last Friday, Carden sent out a neighborhood crime alert to beachside residents. “Four vehicle burglaries were confirmed at 500 Block of Camellia, 700 Block of Dahlia, 700 Block of Bougainvillea, and 500 Block of Fiddlewood. All the vehicles at the above locations were left unlocked. The glove box in all of the above vehicles was opened and papers rummaged through.”

A total of $90 in cash and a debit card was stolen from one of the vehicles, and police launched an investigation to get to the bottom of the incidents.

“Our officers increased patrols and canvassed the area for any signs of other vehicle burglaries. Four more burglaries were suspected to have occurred at 500 Block of Bougainvillea, 700 Block of Bougainvillea, 700 Block of Dahlia, and 500 Block of Azalea. The above four vehicles were left unlocked and appeared to have been rummaged through. However, our officers were unable to make contact with the owners of the vehicles at these locations to confirm whether a burglary has occurred,” Carden wrote.

Even if vehicles are left unlocked and nothing was taken, Carden advised residents, “Always pay attention to see if anything looks different in your car when you first get into it – even if you just left it in the parking lot for a few minutes. And please report any suspected burglaries right away – the more information and possible evidence we have, the more likely our detectives are to develop some leads.”
The next beachside neighborhood watch meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 7 at Christ by the Sea United Methodist Church on A1A.