Bob Briggs hosts a regular Thursday night canasta game in his screened-in patio overlooking the Northdale golf course.
He keeps a small refrigerator out there, stocked with sodas and beers, to share with his partners in cards. Never gave it much thought. It was just the thing hosts do.
Briggs didn't think much, either, of the teens who passed by one recent card night, shouting and screaming before disappearing across the fairway.
Then, the following Sunday, his wife, Carolyn, went outside and noticed the screen door propped open. The couple wouldn't have done that: Snickers, their cat, might have escaped. The pool guy uses a different door. They didn't put the pieces together.
Until Briggs got thirsty for a Coke later in the day, that is. He went to the patio fridge and found all his Coronas and Heinekens had disappeared.
"I equated it with the kids on Thursday night," Briggs said. He called the Sheriff's Office about a week later to report the incident, "in case there was a pattern."
Apparently, there was.
In the past two months, the Sheriff's Office has received 15 calls from people living on the golf course, all with the same complaint: Their beer was gone. If their screen doors were locked, the screens were cut, too.
Deputy Jeffrey Massaro, the community's resource officer, guessed that even more houses had been hit but the owners didn't report the departed drinks. Maybe they didn't notice.
Now, Massaro is looking for the culprits. He has some ideas where to begin.
"They're on foot. It tends to be houses that the back yard butts up to the golf course," he said. "It's an easy means of travel for people to walk. There's no lights on the golf course; there's a lot of shrubbery. People can make their way around virtually unseen."
Massaro acknowledged that there's little families can do to guard their Guinness, short of leaving it inside. If they lock the screen door, the beer snatchers slice it open or, if they're thoughtful, they take out the spline. Maybe people could hide the refrigerators, he said, or add motion-sensitive lights outside the patios.
Meantime, he said, people should call the Sheriff's Office if they hear or see anything suspicious on the golf course after hours.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at (813) 269-5304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.