PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - There have been 57 car burglaries and 15 home burglaries in the Ponte Vedra Beach area since the first of the year, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
The burglaries have happened at various locations, from a dance studio, to driveways, the YMCA and a public library.
The number of burglaries would be high anywhere, but especially in Ponte Vedra Beach, a place people go to escape crime.
"They took everything, I mean everything," said Mirta Colon, whose SUV was burglarized. "They cleaned it out."
Colon said she was picking her daughter up from dance practice when the crooks moved in.
"When my daughter came into the truck, she said, 'Mom, your car is clean. Did you get it cleaned?'" Colon said. "I said, 'No, I need to get it cleaned.' I left. I went home. I didn't realize that somebody had taken stuff right out of my truck."
Colon reported the break-in to deputies. She said her SUV was locked but the crooks still managed to take DVDs, chargers, even floor mats and the vehicle's owner's manual.
Colon said that just a couple hours after the burglary, the thieves were using her credits cards -- which they also stole from her SUV -- at Jacksonville stores, ringing up about $300 worth of merchandise.
"We could see it on our accounts that they were using our credit cards as we were talking to the cops," Colon said.
"We continue to patrol," Sheriff's Office Sgt. Catherine Payne said of the burglaries. "We have increased our neighborhood watch. We have been reaching out to the public, and all we can ask is that they help us and assist us in this area."
Payne said about 86 percent of the cars broken into had their doors unlocked.
"It's a continuing problem with unlocked vehicles and unlocked residences," Payne said. "Criminals are going to use whatever opportunity they can, and if your vehicle's not locked they're going to go through it, especially if they can see valuables inside."
One man has been arrested in some of the burglaries. Detectives said they're tying 18-year-old Adam Bridges (pictured) to at least nine of the heists, and they say more suspects have been identified and charged with the car crimes.
Colon hopes everyone is caught before they commit crimes that are worse.
"There's a lot that you have to think and worry about," she said. "My worry is not about the money, it's about the safety."
The library's manager said she's been letting people know about the problems. She knows of at least three burglaries, and as a result, the library has placed signs all over and employees are patrolling the parking lot.
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