By Matt Wiley
Residents of New Tampa and Tampa Palms should be on guard, as a rash of burglaries has been sweeping through the area over the past several months.
According to the Tampa Police Department (TPD), more than 10 burglaries have been reported in various New Tampa communities since last November, including Hunter’s Green, the Heritage Pines apartment complex, as well as the Stonington and Asbury neighborhoods in Tampa Palms. In some of the cases, multiple burglaries have even occurred on the same street.
The string of burglaries, which date back to November 17, share a common pattern, leading TPD investigators to believe that they are related, although no suspects have yet been identified. However, a TPD spokesperson says that the department does have a few persons of interest, but no arrests had yet been made at our press time.
A TPD release says that the burglars tend to strike in neighborhoods during the day and into the early evening hours by either prying or breaking sliding glass doors or rear windows. TPD says that many of the burglaries have occurred in neighborhoods that border, or are in close proximity to, conservation areas, which can provide cover and allow interested burglars access to the rear of homes without being seen from the street.
A TPD spokesperson says that in most cases, jewelry and laptops have been the items that are most commonly taken. In one instance, two firearms also were stolen.
Due to the increase in crime, a TPD spokesperson says that the department has increased patrols in the area and also has organized a task force that is working on potential leads.
The rise in crime in the area has not gone unnoticed. Mayor Bob Buckhorn even mentioned working to prevent crime in New Tampa during his March 26 “State of the City” address at the historic Kress building on Franklin St. in downtown Tampa.
Although he mentioned that crime in the City is down 60 percent overall, there still is more to be done to prevent crime and violence in Tampa communities, but it will take cooperation between those communities to make it happen. If not, he says, crime moves through the City in a chain reaction.
“As East Tampa and West Tampa go, so goes New Tampa,” he said.
In the meantime, TPD encourages all residents to lock and secure all windows and sliding glass doors, and also to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. In their “Home Burglary Key Elements” report, TPD states that most burglars enter through areas that most people think of as secure and that standard doors and locks are not built to withstand the forceful impact caused by someone trying to break into a residence.
TPD recommends looking into buying reinforcing “auxiliary locks,” many of which are available at hardware stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. TPD also states that privacy fences and shrubbery around windows offer cover for burglars and recommends that every other panel in a privacy fence be taken out and keeping shrubbery at two feet in height or below. TPD also recommends “audible and monitored” security systems that make loud sounds when triggered and also automatically contact the police department, as well as keeping alarms active at all times, as a burglary can take place in the time it takes to run to the store.
When it comes to protecting vehicles, make sure that all valuables are either removed from the vehicle, out of sight or locked away.
Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to the identification and arrest of the suspect(s) in these cases.
Anyone with any information regarding the identity and whereabouts of the suspect(s) responsible and who wants to be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-(800) 873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at CrimeStoppersTB.com, text “CSTB plus your tip” to 274637 (CRIMES) or send a mobile tip using the new TipSubmit mobile application, which is a free download for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. If something doesn’t look right in your neighborhood, call TPD at 231-6130.