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Thieves burglarize cars in Tarpon Springs' Oakleaf Village

TARPON SPRINGS — Andrea Derrick's husband was taking the family dog on an early-morning walk Friday when he noticed the damage.

Two windows on the couple's 2009 Hyundai Sante Fe had been smashed in at their home on Red Oak Drive. Derrick's purse, which she just happened to leave in the SUV the night before, was gone. So was her work bag, containing a stethoscope and other items the emergency room nurse needs to do her job.

The couple was the first to report a vehicle burglary in the Oakleaf Village subdivision Friday morning. They wouldn't be the last.

As officers canvassed the area, they found other burglarized vehicles. More were reported later Friday morning as owners went out to their vehicles and discovered the thefts.

In all, at least 24 vehicles were broken into overnight. Most, like the Derricks', had windows broken. Others were left unlocked, Tarpon Springs police said.

The thefts happened on Red Oak Drive, Whispering Oak Drive, Burning Tree Road, Vermont Avenue, Silver Oak Drive, Rolling Wood Court, White Oak Court and Timber Lane.

Victims in the Tarpon Springs thefts lost various items, such as GPS devices, stereo equipment and bags, police said.

"Some items were found strewn about outside of vehicles that were returned to their owners," said Tarpon Springs police spokesman Capt. Jeff Young.

Strangely, despite the number of broken windows, "Nobody heard any noises out there or anything," Young said.

Derrick said she got lucky. The thief or thieves overlooked her GPS and her iPod, tucked inside her center console.

Despite a broken window that cost him $210 to be replaced, 47-year-old Joe Doria said luck was on his side, too. His wife's brand-new $400 leather jacket and her college textbooks were taken out of the couple's Dodge Grand Caravan, but were left behind.

"They left it all behind the bushes," he said. "I guess it didn't please their palate."

Doria said Oakleaf Village, which is shaded by huge oak trees and where the average home size is 1,800 square feet, is a "great neighborhood."

"We love living here. Everybody who lives here loves it," he said.

Still, this is the second rash of vehicle burglaries the neighborhood has seen in less than a year, he said. And he knows people in other neighborhoods who have gone through similar experiences in recent years.

"It's like a big epidemic," he said. "It just makes you wonder when they get tired of that and start coming into your home."

In January, Clearwater police arrested three teenagers accused of more than half a dozen vehicle burglaries on Clearwater Beach. Also that month, two teenagers were charged with criminal mischief in a vehicle vandalism spree in Seminole, Largo and Belleair Bluffs. There is no evidence to suggest those cases are related to the ones in Tarpon Springs.

Doria said he suspects that more than one person is responsible and that the thieves were bold. Doria lives across the street from a Tarpon Springs police officer who keeps a cruiser parked in his driveway overnight.

Police said they do not have any suspects and are asking for the public's help in identifying the person or people responsible.

Derrick said it was quite the scene Friday morning, as residents trickled out of their homes to survey the damage.

"Everybody's abuzz about it," she said.

>>how to help

Call in any tips

Police ask anyone with information about the crimes to call Tarpon Springs Police Department detectives at (727) 938-2840.

Thieves burglarize cars in Tarpon Springs' Oakleaf Village 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 7:09pm]

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