JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lakewood residents have started taking steps to protect themselves after several recent break-ins in the neighborhood.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office told neighbors Thursday to look out for a black man seen driving a small, gray SUV. Police said the man was checking to see if homes are unoccupied and unlocked.
A resident on Colgate Road was home when she heard a knock. When she did not answer, a window was broken but she was able to scare off the person, police said.
Odie Delores has lived in Lakewood for 40 years, but she said things have taken a turn recently.
"We have a gun that was stolen from one house and a rifle from right across the street. We're very concerned about that. If someone gets killed, I would feel very responsible," Delores said.
Last November, a burglary victim caught two men on surveillance video stealing electronics and jewelry. Even though an arrest was made in the cast that same month, more than 75 burglaries occurred in the area in 2015.
Residents said it's happening again now.
"Left the house, and sometime in an hour and a half, between when I was home and my wife came home, our front door was kicked in and the entire house was ransacked. We had electronics stolen, cash, jewelry, firearms, liquor from our bar. Violated doesn't even begin to explain," said the homeowner, who only wished to be identified as Joel. "Everything was tossed. All the doors, drawers and the house was turned upside down. Mattresses were flipped. Things were ripped from the tops of the shelves in the closet. And we knew immediately what had happened."
Joel said two other homes were hit the same day in June that his was burglarized.
Within the last six months, there have been more than 162 crimes reported in the area, according to the Sheriff's Office. Of those crimes, 21 were burglaries, 7 were robberies, 19 were vehicle break-ins and 13 were vehicle thefts.
Residents, including Dean Wilhelm who helped create the neighborhood watch, have begun rallying neighbors to take action by downloading the Nextdoor app, which allows people to report suspicious activity in the area.
"Part of the neighborhood watch program is really observe and report," Wilhelm said. "Some of the suspects are quite lucky that they haven't come across either the right or wrong home or the right or wrong person home at that time. And it's their last opportunity to commit a crime."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.