DADE CITY — Several liquor and convenience stores have been targeted in a recent spike of business burglaries, said the Dade City Police Department.
But instead of making off with the Grey Goose or other top shelf brands, the burglars are snatching the cigarettes and cigars on display at the front counters.
"It's a focused, targeted group," Dade City police Chief Ray Velboom said.
In the past month, Dade City has seen at least six gas station and liquor store break-ins. That's up from two reported business burglaries in March, three in April and zero in May.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office is working five similar smash and grabs in its jurisdiction near Dade City. The Zephyrhills Police Department is also investigating a June 25 break in at Robby's Liquors on Gall Boulevard. The three agencies are working together.
The break-ins occurred at night and in the early morning. The thieves do not seem to be targeting a specific area within the city. Victimized businesses include the In and Out Drive Thru north of downtown, and the Five Star Express convenience store on State Road 52. Several businesses in Tommytown, north of Dade City, have also been burglarized.
Business owners could not be reached on Monday.
Authorities couldn't give out many details because the cases are under investigation. Surveillance cameras have given them some clues to the burglars.
"Some of the video has shown black males and some has shown white males," Velboom said. "They're using concrete blocks, brick and stone to bust out the windows."
Authorities are warning store owners to remain vigilant while the burglars remain at large.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.