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Redington Beach abuzz after rash of burglaries

(ran Beach, Seminole, West editions)

Four house burglaries and three car break-ins in two weeks have put this beach community on alert.

The Sheriff's Office is increasing neighborhood patrols and surveillance, particularly at night. Town Clerk Larry Bittner said Friday he was recruiting resident volunteers to go door to door this weekend to distribute a "crime alert" flier, which also is posted on the town's Web site.

"We haven't had anything like this in Redington Beach in a long time," said Pinellas County sheriff's Detective Jeff Lyons, who is concerned that a resident might confront a "bad guy" in his home. "It could get ugly," he said.

The latest activity follows a rash of car burglaries last month in the same three-block area between First and Second streets and 162nd and 155th avenues.

In most cases, according to Lyons, owners left doors unlocked. In one of the house burglaries, the resident was asleep on the sofa.

"People seem to think we are still living in the 1950s and are leaving their home and car doors unlocked," Bittner said. "We want to warn them to lock their doors and enlist their help in catching whoever is doing this."

There are no suspects, Lyons said. "We don't know if these burglaries are related or if they are not. Usually car burglaries involve kids, but these house burglaries were pretty brazen. Kids don't usually have the confidence to break in when people are there," he said.

Mathias Schnur Jr., 71, was watching television Tuesday night in his living room.

Sometime after 2 a.m. Wednesday, he fell asleep. His front door was open; the screen door was closed but unlocked.

The next morning, Schnur decided to get his hair cut. When he reached into his wallet to pay the barber, he discovered it was empty. More than $70 was gone.

When he got home, he realized more was missing: $2,000 in cash, some jewelry kept in a chest drawer in his bedroom, and a bag of foreign coins collected some years ago when his son was in Europe.

"I'm disturbed, wouldn't you be?" Schnur said. "I've lived in this house for almost 40 years and I've never had anything like this happen before. I'm locking my door and my car now."

He also is keeping a wooden club handy in case a burglar returns.

Burglars entered another home on Nov. 9 by prying open the front door. Nothing was reported missing. Two homes were entered through open garages on Nov. 10 and 11. Attempts to pry open an interior door to one home was unsuccessful. No items were reported stolen.

The three cars burglarized on Nov. 2 and 3 were all left unlocked. Items taken included music CDs, luggage, cigars and food.

Both Lyons and Bittner urge residents to lock their homes and cars and keep their garage doors closed, even during the daytime. The town's flier also urges residents to call 911 immediately if they see anything suspicious. Outside lights should be left on all night to aid patrol officers.

The town's crime alert also suggests residents install burglar alarms or place a sticker on their doors and windows suggesting the house has alarms. If residents plan to be out during the day or night, they should put lights, radios and televisions on timers to create the illusion that they are home.

Any residents planning to leave town for more than a day should notify the Sheriff's Office.

Bittner also urges residents to join the town's neighborhood watch program: "We're trying to get this started again."