ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – At least two people are being sought in connection with two smash-and-grab vehicle burglaries last month in a parking lot of Alpine Grove Park in the Switzerland neighborhood of northwest St. Johns County, authorities said.
The three victims left their purses in two vehicles on May 14 at the park on State Road 13 North. Thieves smashed a window in each vehicle, and the three purses were taken, deputies said.
Steve Otto, who goes to the park regularly, said the Switzerland area is usually quiet and safe, so a lot of people don't lock their cars,
"I would say people feel very safe here," Otto said. "I've live here 24 years, same house about a mile from here. And I don't lock my cars."
Later in the evening on May 14, the purses were found in a garbage dumpster off Wells Road in Orange Park.
According to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, one of the thieves was caught on surveillance images throwing the purses in the dumpster. The surveillance video revealed that a black man with a medium build and short afro hair and wearing a brown shirt exits the passenger door with a large quantity of the victims’ belongings and throws them into the dumpster.
The thieves were driving a gray/blue four-door sedan, possibly a Chrysler, investigators said.
Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst, said the incidents are another reminder that crimes occur even in the safest areas.
"It's around this time of year when school lets out, that some schools are already out. These types of crimes are on the increase, so you have to be much more alert around this time. Burglary detectives will tell you their job increases more now than any time of year," Smith said.
Anyone with any information is asked to call SJCSO Detective Kyle Braig at 904-824-8304 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS.