The burglaries occurred within a few miles of each other, many just a block or two north of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in the Skycrest area.
By ANGIE GREEN
Published June 24, 2003
CLEARWATER - The thud woke her up. She stumbled out into the living in her Tigger boxer shorts, figuring someone had slammed a door.
Then Brandy Baker, 15, saw the front door and its frame, both knocked in.
Then she saw the man with the butcher knife.
They both froze. He ran. She called her sister on the phone. Her sister called their mother. Her mom rushed home.
Baker lives in one of 13 homes that have been burglarized in Clearwater in the past month.
"We believe they may be related to one another," Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said. "There are similarities in crime based on what they are taking and the method of operation."
All the burglaries were within a few miles of each other. Many were just a block or two north of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, near Clearwater High School in the Skycrest area. Homes on Cleveland Street just west of Hercules Avenue have been hit three times.
The burglaries all took place during the day, frequently before noon, Shelor said. And the entry was usually forced.
Cash and small pawnable items - things that can be carried in pockets - were usually taken, Shelor said.
The burglar who kicked down Baker's door last month wore white gloves, and took a gold bracelet and a man's watch. The bracelet was a Christmas present. The watch was to have been a Father's Day gift.
It was around 1 p.m., and no cars were in the driveway.
Baker was still half asleep when she saw the burglar come from a hallway leading to two back bedrooms. He was white, in his early 30s, more than 6 feet tall, and wore dark gray pants and a gray T-shirt. He had short brown hair and brown eyes. He needed a shave.
Still groggy, Baker thought: "I've got to run."
She said: "It still runs through my mind what would have happened."
Baker said the intruder was just as startled as she was. Police said Baker's home is the only burgled home in which the victim saw the burglar.
"He looked like he wanted to pee his pants," Baker said.
To protect yourself, police say, make sure all doors and windows in your home are locked. Most important, residents should call 911 immediately if they see anyone suspicious.
"The best neighbors you can have are the ones who are nosey enough to look and call the police," Shelor said. "That's my favorite kind of neighbor."
Residents in the area are responding in different ways. Some are passing out fliers alerting others of the crimes. Some are becoming more aggressive "neighborhood crime watchers."
David Blue, Baker's stepfather-to-be, bought the family a schnauzer named Lady and trimmed the palm tree that blocked the view of the front door from the street.
Elizabeth France, the Skycrest Neighborhood Association's communication coordinator, said neighbors are anxious about the situation.
"Nobody's happy," France said. "Who's going to be happy about someone coming to violate the sanctity of your own home?"
France also stressed the need for neighbors to look out for anything suspicious. She has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and has never experienced anything like this, she said. Her street, Cleveland Street, has had three homes burglarized. Two homes were next door to one another.
"You've got a real clever person or persons commiting the crime," she said. "It's times like this you realize how important neighborhood watch is."
As for Baker, a softball player, she now sleeps with a bat.