Burglaries lead crimes on increase

They're up 26 percent here, but violent crimes show a drop.

Published October 20, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - The latest numbers on crime in the county are in, and they show that while residents might not need to worry about violent crime, they should be on the lookout for burglars.

In the first six months of this year, there was a 26 percent increase in the number of burglaries in Hernando, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report released this week.

The large increase came even as the number of burglaries statewide went up by only 3 percent. Larcenies in Hernando also increased - by 8 percent - but forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft went down.

The number of murders stayed the same - at zero.

Popluation growth and construction site activity are to blame for the rise in burglaries, according to Deputy Donna L. Black, spokeswoman for the Hernando Sheriff's Office.

"We've been aware of the increase but there's been an increase in construction site theft, copper thefts, and car burglaries, which we've been addressing," Black said. "We need the citizens to help us lower the crime rate by doing their part and locking their vehicles and making sure that nothing of value is left in plain sight."

There were a few serial burglars who skewed the stats, she said.

In May, a Palm Harbor man was arrested and charged with committing 54 vehicle burglaries in Spring Hill. The next month eight churches were burglarized by two teenagers.

Another thief even purchased a police cruiser at an auction and cruised construction sites stealing copper wire, hoping to blend in as an undercover police officer.

In the first six months of 2005, there were 595 burglaries reported by the Sheriff's Office. In 2006, that number went up to 753.

The Brooksville Police Department also saw an increase, albeit a minor one, from 38 burglaries in the first half of 2005 to 45 burglaries in the first half of 2006.

"It's not the residents of the city of Brooksville who are committing crime here," said Brooksville police Lt. Richard Hankins. "It is outside individuals who live outside the city of Brooksville and in other counties."

He added: "In a given workday there are over 50,000 vehicles that travel through this municipality. That is where the majority of our crime is coming from."

The FDLE compiles statistics from 404 law enforcement agencies across the state and issues the mid-year report as a bellwether for the state of crime in Florida.

Of the seven categories of crime the report tracks, rape in Hernando went down 15 percent, robbery went down 23 percent, aggravated assault went down 9 percent and motor vehicle theft went down 7 percent.

But Hankins cautioned against reading too much into the fluctuations of the small numbers.

"Crimes stats have intrigued criminologists for years and it's not an exact science," he said. "A lot of the fluctuation is due to the way officers categorize crimes."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 352 754-6114.