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"Smash-and-grab' suspect arrested at shopping center

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

A trail of coins led from a cash register at Regency Hair Salon to the smashed glass front door at the business.

Several doors away, police say, a man wearing gloves and toting a hammer stood inside the Better Life Hearing shop, his pockets stuffed with coins from the beauty salon. He was not interested in a hearing aid.

Police Sgt. John Scacca said detectives watching for "smash-and-grab" burglars arrested the suspect about 1:30 a.m. Monday inside the hearing aid store at Sunset Point Plaza.

Bryce E. Maxton, 34, who police said was staying with an On Top of the World resident, was charged with attempted burglary, possession of burglary tools and two counts of burglary. He was being held Monday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

"Detectives believe he can be linked through evidence to a number of the recent smash-and-grab burglaries in Pinellas County," said Wayne Shelor, a police spokesman. "He may be responsible for a significant number of those burglaries."

In smash-and-grab burglaries, someone breaks a glass door or window at a business, goes inside, takes cash and leaves. A series of such burglaries, also called "'smash for cash," began at North Pinellas strip shopping centers in May.

On June 26, about 10 businesses were broken into from Clearwater to East Lake. On July 21, about 20 smash-and-grab burglaries were reported in Clearwater and Dunedin.

Scacca said detectives were watching Sunset Point Plaza when a man, later identified by police as Maxton, appeared. He hit the glass entrance at Sunset Point Travel, they said, but did not go inside. He went to another business.

"We observed him break a window at the hearing aid place and enter the building," Scacca said. "We arrested him inside, with his gloves on, standing there."

After the arrest, police found that the beauty salon at the shopping center had been burglarized, and that coins had been stolen. In addition to pockets full of coins, Scacca said, Maxton had burglary tools, including lock-picking devices.

Maxton would not talk to detectives, but the sergeant said he moved to Pinellas about four months ago.

"The one thing he did say was that he was seeking fame and fortune," Scacca said. "I guess this time he didn't get the fortune."

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