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Home burglaries rise in some areas

Aside from having dead bolts and barking dogs, police say neighbors can help most by watching out for each other.

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Advice from officials at the St. Petersburg Police Department to residents: Be vigilant. A rash of recent residential burglaries, mostly in the northern part of the city, has left some residents edgy.

"I've been a little nervous in the last few weeks," said Maggie Willett, a Woodlawn resident of 20 years who said a string of burglaries in her neighborhood has made her more cautious about going out.

"It's higher than normal," said Sgt. Bill Lusby, who oversees the Burglary Division of the Police Department. "But it's not a really bad pattern."

Lusby said that from May 17 through June 18, 40 residential burglaries have been reported from 22nd to 54th avenues N and east of the Interstate. "That sounds like a lot, but it's a large area," Lusby said.

Three have been in Woodlawn, he said, and several have been in the Crescent Lake area.

"We think they may be related," said Lusby. "We've made arrests, four people two weeks ago. There is not a gang out there. There are some more individuals we're looking at. We just have to prove it."

In most cases, the burglaries have been in unoccupied houses, he said, and the thieves have taken electronics, jewelry, cash, and in one case an outboard motor, "stuff you can pawn." He said many items have been recovered.

"If folks write down serial numbers and keep the list in a safe place, that helps a lot," he said. "If someone pawns it, we have immediate access. Take photographs of jewelry, especially if it's expensive or unique."

Typically, burglaries "spike" during the summer months.

"We expect an increase once school is out," he said. "But we don't think this is related. It's too early to tell what kind of spike we'll have."

Lusby had some tips to thwart a burglary.

"The biggest thing is to keep your doors locked," he said. "If you can, put dead bolts in. Alarm systems and dogs are good, especially ones that bark. If someone doesn't belong in a neighborhood, is walking through, knocking on doors then going around the side of a house, call the police. Ninety-nine times out of 100, they're going to flee if they're discovered."

He advised that if you are at home during a break-in, "call 911 if you can get to a phone, but get out of the house. Most don't want confrontation, but don't take a chance. What we really need are neighbors to look out for each other."

Maggie Willet, who cares for children in her Woodlawn home during the day, does.

"I saw a dark blue van parked in a driveway yesterday," she said. "I had not seen it before and it pulled into the alley behind a house. I called the police."

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