CLEARWATER — Police may have broken up a burglary ring that was targeting vehicles at local fitness centers and parks.
On Thursday, police arrested three residents of Florida's east coast after a witness reported seeing them trying to break into cars at LA Fitness at 21750 U.S. 19 N, according to arrest reports.
The witness called Clearwater police, who arrived and arrested 25-year-old Thaddeus L. Terrell of Fort Lauderdale and 21-year-old Jennifer Perez and 19-year-old Darnisha C. Johnson, both of Homestead.
All three were charged with loitering and prowling. Terrell was also charged with possession of burglary tools, attempted burglary, providing a false name to law enforcement and violation of probation. Perez was also charged with attempted burglary and Johnson was also charged with accessory after the fact because, police said, she acted as a lookout.
According to police reports, the witness saw the trio driving around the fitness center's parking lot Thursday morning and stopping at various vehicles, where Terrell and Perez would jump out and try to open car doors. All of the cars were locked.
Surveillance video captured the incident.
Vehicles at the center have been burglarized frequently, the reports show. Clearwater police routinely remind residents to remove valuables from their cars and lock the doors to prevent crimes of opportunity.
"Fitness centers are obviously a target area because people will leave their belongings in the car while they go work out," said city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.
Terrell, who gave police a false name but was identified through fingerprints, had a yellow metal "punch" device used to break windows and admitted to the arresting officers that he was trying to break into cars, according to the reports.
Police found "a large number of gift cards" in the trio's rented Nissan Rogue, Castelli said, and are working to identify victims.
Terrell is on probation after being convicted of burglary and criminal mischief charges from Miami-Dade County, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
Johnson and Perez do not have criminal records in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
On Friday, Johnson was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $5,250 bail, Perez was being held in lieu of $10,500 bail, and Terrell was being held without bail on the probation violation.