An group of "smash-and-grab" burglars has broken into eight buildings in the city since Saturday, including the old courthouse. There also has been a burglary and a case of vandalism that appear to be the work of "more sophisticated" criminals, said Capt. Ray Schumacher of the Brooksville Police Department.
"It looks like we might have two groups working. Some are leaving a mess when they go in, others aren't," Schumacher said.
Most of the burglaries have been what Schumacher called "smash-and-grab" break-ins. In almost all the cases, the burglars entered the buildings by breaking a glass door or window, and either entered through the broken glass or reached through to open a door or window.
The first reported burglary was discovered Saturday morning at Hensley Chiropractic Clinic at 291 E Jefferson St. The two most recent break-ins were discovered Wednesday morning at La Boutique of Brooksville Inc. at 408 Broad St., and at the Men's Fashion Square at 1342 U.S. 41 S.
In most cases, little has been stolen, but $3,300 in cash and equipment was discovered missing Saturday night from the Brooksville Health Food Store, 1445 U.S. 41 S.
"Boy, it was scary .
. to think that nothing you have is safe and that there are all those burglars out there. I don't like living in this country anymore. We've been in business for 11 years and we've never seen anything like this," said Gloria Williams, part-owner of the Health Food Store.
She said the glass repair man came in with her bill Wednesday. "He told me they're breaking glass all over the place. He said, "Man, have I been busy,'
" she said.
There was money in the store, she said, because the owners had been afraid to take it home at night. "Now we're getting a box at the bank." Besides the cash, two answering machines and a color television set were stolen, according to the police report.
Burglars broke into the courthouse by shattering a window next to the front door of the building, reaching inside and opening a window, the report stated. The broken window was discovered about 11 p.m. Saturday.
Once inside, the burglars rifled through desks in several offices on the first floor, including the state attorney's office. In the tax collector's office, the intruders broke open a cash register on the floor. They also ransacked an employee's lounge in the courthouse basement, trying to pry open a soft-drink machine and then tipping it over, according to reports. The report also said that nothing had been discovered missing in the offices.
The "more sophisticated" burglars are thought to have burglarized Dan-Lo Jewelers at 66 South Plaza. A hole was cut in the store's roof, and the burglar alarm had been disconnected, though nothing was taken.
The same group is thought to be responsible for cutting phone wires behind Hogan's Rexall Drugs at Hernando Plaza.
Though these burglars may be smarter, authorities think they may be easier to catch. "These smash-and-grabs, those are the hardest ones to defend against," Schumacher said. The thieves are in and out quickly and leave very little physical evidence, he said.
Schumacher theorized that the burglars might be from out of town and that they have picked Brooksville as a place to work for a short time. There has been no similar spree elsewhere in the county recently, said Sgt. Frank Bierwiler of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Though Brooksville police investigators do have some leads, Schumacher said there are no definite suspects. "It's up in the air right now."
Other businesses reporting burglaries include: Westover's Flowers & Gifts, 417 W Jefferson St.; Gligor's Restaurant, 711 U.S. 41 S; and Century 21 Apple Realty, 503 E Jefferson St.