Oldsmar subdivision hit by rash of car burglaries last weekend

A string of car burglaries occurred in an Oldsmar subdivision last weekend, prompting Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies to ask residents to lock their vehicles and report any suspicious activity to the police.

At least 15 cars in Oldsmar’s Country Club Estates subdivision were burglarized over the weekend, leading police to caution residents to remove valuables and lock their vehicles.

The rash of burglaries was just the latest in an ongoing string of such crimes in Pinellas County.

Last September, the East Lake corridor and parts of downtown Oldsmar were hit with 31 vehicle break-ins and a home robbery. In late 2015, a string of vehicle and business break-ins swept through nearby Safety Harbor.

According to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies, there is a simple way to avoid being victimized.

“Probably the biggest thing is people leaving their cars unlocked,” PCSO Dept. John Sachse told the Oldsmar City Council Tuesday night.

This area of Oldsmar was hit by a rash of vehicle burglaries over the weekend. (Google Maps)

“They leave their cars unlocked, they leave their purses in their cars, they leave guns in their cars….and these kids just walk through neighborhoods and are checking doors. If they’re unlocked, the go in and they rifle through. They know to go to the glove box, look for the valet key, and steal the car.”

Sachse said in addition to locking vehicles, citizens should be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.

“If you see anything suspicious, if you see a group of kids, or two or three, walking in a neighborhood that just doesn’t feel right, then get as much information as you can (and) call us…so we can go over and talk to them and see what’s going on,” he said.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

The deputy also cautioned against citizens trying to play amateur detective.

“I’m not saying anyone should go outside and snoop,” Dept. Sachse said. “If you’re in your house and you see it, call. As you know we’re 24 hours, so two in the morning, we’re awake.”

Mayor Doug Bevis pointed out that the crimes were not limited to Oldsmar.

“No, they bounce around communities,” Dept. Sachse said.

“They hit Palm Harbor. In some cases, it’s a group of kids who come up from St. Pete. Some kids are from East Lake. I mean, it’s just kids that have nothing better to do.”

Sachse went on to describe how these operations typically work.

“A lot of times what they will do is somebody will drive, the doors will open, two or three kids will jump out, the car drives slow, they’re walking and they’re just checking doors,” he said.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

“They get one, they rifle through it, get what they can, and move on. There’s not a lot of from the movies where the burglar goes and breaks the lock and is real careful. They just open doors. And if it’s locked it’s not worth their trouble and they move on.”

Council member Jerry Beverland, a longtime resident of the downtown district, said he’s seen this situation many times over the years.

“This has been going on for years and years and years, and people still will not lock the doors,” he said. “I don’t get it.”

Mayor Bevis added the thieves will also steal garage door openers and later use them to break into the home.

“They get in there and get your remote for your garage door and then they’ll come back later when you’re not home and rob your house, or at least get stuff out of your garage,” Bevis said.

Dept. Sachse said the department is working on installing message boards on Tampa Road warning motorists of the crimes, but he stressed residents need to take extra precautions in order to avoid being victimized.

“The biggest thing is breaking bad habits,” he said.

“Lock your cars. Lock your cars in your garage.”

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