Suspect linked to burglaries

Published May 23, 2007

CLEARWATER - Vehicle burglaries are common enough that they can go unnoticed. But not when 60 or 70 of them are grouped in 1 square mile of the city. Not when they all take place in the course of just two months.

Tuesday morning, Clearwater police arrested a man they believe is responsible for the burglary rampage.

Here's how they broke the case, according to Sgt. Gregory Stewart.

When the burglaries started April 3, crime analysts in the department took note.

All the burglaries took place at night. Almost all involved unlocked vehicles. The vast majority fell within a box of streets bounded by Lakeview Road, S Highland Avenue, Belleair Road and S Missouri Avenue.

The analysts passed the word to the community policing officers, who are expected to have their finger on the pulse of the community.

The community policing officers quickly developed a suspect: 44-year-old Robert O'Conner, an unemployed former lawn maintenance worker.

On Monday night, a team of Clearwater officers watched O'Conner as he walked out of his apartment at 1328 Tioga Ave. in Clearwater.

With a bag on his back, he hopped on his bicycle and took off down the street.

It didn't take long before he was going through a yard he shouldn't have entered, Stewart said.

That's when police arrested him on a charge of loitering and prowling.

Then they went through his backpack, Stewart said, and found the contents of other people's vehicles: cell phones, CDs, change and all the things people leave in their vehicles, which O'Conner was then pawning and selling.

Stewart said O'Conner confessed to six burglaries, but is a suspect in all the rest.

In addition to six counts of vehicle burglary, he was charged with three counts of petty theft, one count of grand theft and one count of loitering and prowling.

He is being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $70, 500 bail.

"It's a great story for us as a police department, " Stewart said.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.