A 41-year-old man suspected of breaking through the roof of several Winn-Dixie stores and other businesses was caught in the act early Thursday morning.
Police responding to a burglar alarm at the Winn-Dixie at 5909 University Boulevard West at 2:10 a.m. say they saw William Steele, 41, on the roof. Officers surrounded the store and waited for Jacksonville Fire-Rescue to respond with a ladder before reaching the roof. According to the arrest report, they found Steele had climbed down an open vent and was hiding on his side against a wall on a lower-level roof.
Officers said when they said, "Show me your hands," Steele rolled over on his stomach with his arms out.
"I think a lot of times, in a lot of cases, once these guys, when they get caught, they know the gig is up," said Shannon Hartley, spokesman for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Steele was charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools. The arrest report said Steele was also seen on surveillance video in the store walking to the ATM, which police say he was trying to pry open when the alarm went off.
"Often times if we catch him with one crime, there's been additional crimes, or certainly more crimes that have been planned," said Hartley.
Police believe Steele may be responsible for five other Winn-Dixie rooftop burglaries in Jacksonville and surrounding counties since December in which the burglar used a crowbar and ax to try to break through the roof.
In a St. Johns County burglary, $18,000 was stolen from an ATM.
Police say some crooks may think accessing a building through the roof is a way to break in without getting caught.
"They tend to think that it's maybe a slicker way to get in, an easier way to get in, maybe a little more surreptitious," Hartley said. "But really and truly, it's just another point of entry."