Police step up patrols in wake of New Tampa break-ins
NEW TAMPA -
Tribune staffTampa police officers have some advice for area residents in the wake of a rash of home break-ins: Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security.
Living behind high, wrought-iron gates or in quiet enclaves tucked deep off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is no guarantee you won’t become a victim of a home burglary, officers say.
“People tend to have a false sense of security when they live in a gated community,” Tampa police Lt. John Preyer said. “But you have to remember, there are a lot of people who have the security code, such as the Fed-X guy, the maid and friends of your kids.”
He encourages people who are out and about in the neighborhood day or night to keep a lookout for suspicious activities.
Tampa detectives are investigating a string of home burglaries in parts of Tampa Palms and New Tampa since November. Ten break-ins have been reported in Tampa Palms, Hunter’s Green, Heritage Isles and a neighborhood off Dona Michelle Drive from Nov. 17 to April 3. No suspects have been identified, but police officers believe the same person or several individuals may be responsible for most of the burglaries based on similarities in the methods used, authorities said. In each case, a burglar entered a house by breaking through a sliding glass door or prying or slashing out a rear window. Police say the burglaries occurred between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., when the homeowners were away from their homes. Several of the houses were located near conservation areas. Police believe the proximity to woods made it easier for the burglar to sneak in and out without being seen. Authorities are seeking the public’s help to develop leads. They are encouraging residents to report any suspicious activity they see in the neighborhood. “They have got to be our eyes and ears in the neighborhood,” said Preyer, a 24-year Tampa police veteran who used to work in the New Tampa area. “The officers have been mandated to spend more time in the neighborhoods. We are trying to be predictably random” in the patrol patterns. Tampa Palms resident Kristen Mallia is happy about the increased police presence. Burglars recently broke into a house in the Wellington neighborhood, where the Mallia family previously lived. Mallia, a community leader in Tampa Palm’s Huntington neighborhood, said she has become more observant about her surroundings in recent months. “We are getting more and more people doing that too,” Mallia said. “We had a couple of young men fishing in a pond several nights ago, and a neighbor called police.” Police officers arrived within minutes and discovered the two men were University of South Florida students who did not know Tampa Palms prohibits fishing in community ponds. “We maintain good communication with the police department” Mallia said. “If something doesn’t seem right to me, I call my neighbor. I think it’s important to know your neighbors. You have got to remain social to keep crime out.”