ST. PETERSBURG — After a steady rash of home burglaries in northeast neighborhoods in the past two weeks, police are asking residents to be vigilant to help them make arrests.
There were more than a dozen incidents in the past 14 days, including several in the Northeast Park, Old Northeast, Shore Acres, Snell Isle and Round Lake neighborhoods. St. Petersburg police Sgt. Tim Montanari of the robbery unit said at least eight of those incidents appear to be the work of the same people. He would not disclose details because of the ongoing investigation.
The crimes have followed a pattern that is not new to police. The criminals drive up to a home in the morning or early afternoon and park in the driveway or alley. They knock on the door and wait for an answer. If someone answers, they make up a ruse and walk away, Montanari said.
"If nobody answers the door they just kick in the front door, grab your TV, electronics, hop back in their car and drive away," Montanari said.
The robberies are typically over in minutes.
Montanari said many of these crimes can be prevented if residents take simple precautions.
"In other words, don't become a target," agreed Barbara Heck, president of the Snell Isle Property Owners Association. "Lock your doors and windows, put your garage door down, put valuables out of sight and turn your alarm on if you have one."
Other tips suggested by police: don't hide keys outside your home. Invest in a dead-bolt lock at least 1-inch long with a reinforced strike plate. Make a list of valuables. Join your local crime watch group.
The next step is to call police, not only if you become a victim, but also to report suspicious activity such as an unfamiliar car or bicyclist. Many residents mistakenly assume they are bothering police to report such things. The number for the police communications center is (727) 893-7780.
"We have detectives and patrol officers always listening," Montanari said. "We like those calls. I wish we had more of them."
Montanari noted that despite this flurry of burglaries, police statistics show that residential and commercial burglaries dropped 20 percent citywide from last year during the months of January and February.
Reach Luis Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727)892-2271.