GPD investigates spike in burglaries

Gainesville police offering rewards for information in burglary cases

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville Police Department is asking for the public's help in stopping a surge in burglaries throughout the city and is offering rewards for information in the burglaries.

GPD has taken a total of 280 reports of burglary, both residential and vehicle, since the new year, which is an increase of over 50 percent from the same period in 2015.

Investigators have identified multiple causes for the spike in crime, but the current major trend is that juveniles are committing the burglaries and then trading the stolen items for drugs.

The GPD has identified a number of juvenile suspects for some of the recent burglaries and officers have carried out multiple searches that resulted in stolen property being recovered. Recently, five juveniles, the oldest being 17 years old, were arrested and accused in a total of 15 burglaries.

The GPD has reason to believe the group is one of many groups of juvenile burglars that have been busy racking up.

The largest burglary increase has involved vehicles. In the last 28 days, there have been 59 vehicles burglarized. Of those, 70 percent involved unlocked vehicles.

GPD’s Crime Prevention Unit is urging residents to ensure their vehicle is locked and that valuables are hidden or removed.

"It only takes a second to double-check and make sure that your vehicle is locked and if all these people had done that that would have been a 70 percent reduction in the amount of burglaries," GPD spokesman Ben Tobias said.

The burglars are checking door handles and looking into vehicles for valuables and want the path of least resistance, Tobias said.

“If you make it harder for them by locking your car and hiding your valuables, they will likely move on to the next target,” Tobias said. “Officers are increasing patrols, but can’t watch the entire city at once, so it is up to you to ensure you are taking the proper steps to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.”

One of the hardest-hit areas was the Northwood Pines neighborhood off of NW 34th Street. GPD’s Traffic Safety Team recently conducted traffic patrols in the area, stopping numerous vehicles. Instead of issuing traffic citations, the officers gave the residents printed information on both residential and vehicle security in an effort to inform and educate area residents of the current crime issues.

One Gainesville resident took that message to heart, nailing a sign up on his property that reads, "Warning, security cameras in use."

"It's a deterrent. People get away with what they think they can get away with," said the resident, who asked to be identified only as Bill.

He also placed a sign in a window of his house.

“GPD cannot tackle this burglary surge alone and is requesting your help,” Tobias said. “Always remember to call GPD if you notice any suspicious activity, day or night.”

GPD’s Special Operations Unit is now offering rewards for information that leads to the arrest or prosecution of persons responsible for committing these crimes.

Callers can reach the SOU Investigators at 352-393-7710 to provide tips. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous can call GPD’s Anonymous Tip Line at 352-393-7700, submit a web tip at gainesevillepd.org or text keyword GPDFL plus your tip to 274637 (crimes).