Burglars smash into restaurants

Published May 31, 2007

SPRING HILL - The signs in the windows of Yentas Family Restaurant are clear: "We keep no cash in restaurant after closing."

Nineteen-year-old Magen Loew scrawled the signs on the back of paper menus in red and black marker and taped them to the glass after her parents' restaurant on Spring Hill Drive was burglarized early Monday.

She sat on a stool beside the new cash register Wednesday afternoon, still upset over what happened while her parents were out of town.

The Spring Hill Plaza restaurant is the latest victim in a string of unsolved commercial burglaries in Spring Hill that police believe are connected.

According to sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Black, at least 25 businesses have been hit since March 30. Most of the targets have been restaurants, and the thieves strike when the businesses are closed.

To Loew, the break-in seemed particularly senseless.

"It looked like they beat the old register until it came open, but they only got less than $100, " she said. "It cost a lot more to replace it and the glass in the door."

A staff member who arrived to open up just after 5 a.m. on what would have been a busy Memorial Day found shattered glass all over the floor. A palm-sized chunk of concrete later found inside was used to break through the door.

Scared that someone might still be inside, she called 911. Hernando County sheriff's deputies arrived shortly afterward, once they wrapped up another report of a burglary at the nearby East Buffet Chinese Restaurant on U.S. 19, the second time in two weeks the restaurant was hit.

Loew said that police told her that they had found a rock at East Buffet that was roughly the same size as the chunk of concrete that was used to break into Yentas. Only at the Chinese restaurant, the rock had been left on the front counter.

Black said the Sheriff's Office needs help from the community. "We need to get this out to the public, especially to people who are delivering items or dropping off newspapers early in the morning while the places are closed.

"If they notice anything strange, call 911 and let us check it out, " she said. "These people get in and out very quickly."

Black said that burglaries like the ones in Spring Hill are occurring in other communities, mostly for what appears to be extra money. "Some people are taking drastic means to get money, " she said.

The first time East Buffet was robbed, May 14, whoever broke in smashed the glass at the back door and got away with several hundred dollars, said Jenny Zhang, manager of the restaurant, which has been in Spring Hill for five years.

The second time, burglars smashed the front door but didn't get any money.

"There were pennies and quarters, but they didn't take those, " Zhang said. "I don't know why they came back. I guess we're just unlucky."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.