Deputies investigate rash of auto burglaries in Clay County

Military ID, handgun among items taken from unlocked Mercedes

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Deputies are investigating a rash of auto burglaries throughout various subdivisions in Fleming Island and Middleburg, the Clay County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

Investigators said they even obtained surveillance video from one of the burglaries that happened about 2:20 a.m. Thursday on Hideaway Hill Court in the Southlakes Estates Subdivision in Middleburg.

The video captured two burglars stealing a handgun and a military ID from an unlocked Mercedes parked in the owner's driveway.         

The crooks aren’t using any high-tech methods or bypassing alarm systems, deputies said. All of the car burglaries have one simple thing in common.

“All the vehicles were unlocked,” said Lt. Jeff Johnson, with the Sheriff’s Office.

It appears people haven’t been locking their cars, on the neighborhood streets or in their driveways. So as for a good place to start when it comes to combating the problem, investigators urged drivers to lock up.

As for the handgun taken from the Mercedes, Johnson said that case is a bit more involved, because now another stolen gun is on the streets.

“Any time there’s a weapon, we treat it seriously, just as we would a computer, but a weapon adds an extra threat,” Johnson said.

The owner of the car seen in the surveillance video didn’t want to go on camera due to medical reasons, but she said the vehicle is usually locked.

She told News4Jax on Wednesday that her husband last used the car, but he was so preoccupied that he simply forgot to lock it.

Thieves are also taking other items besides weapons. 

“Just small things -- nothing huge,” said Luke Buchann, who lives in the area. “They’re doing more damage than anything else.”

Not everyone seemed sympathetic to the victims, because in these instances, unlocked car doors have created the perfect opportunity for thieves.

“Well, I hate to say this, but it’s good enough for them,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous. “That’s not very nice to say, is it? That’s why (cars) have (a) lock on here -- to lock them, so (people) need to lock (their) car doors and not keep their visible wallets in sight.”

The Sheriff’s Office is increasing neighborhood patrols in an effort to catch the thieves. They’re also conducting intelligence gathering with other law enforcement agencies.

“We are actively working with other counties and task forces,” Johnson said. “Just because a crime happens here, doesn’t mean the person is going across the bridge and doing it there.”

Deputies stressed to residents, it’s most important to lock your cars consistently. Don’t leave items of value inside. Deputies also suggested making a go-bag, which would contain all your valuables and stay with you.

Some of the neighborhoods in Fleming Island that have been targeted are the Brook Stone subdivision, Enclave at Eagle Harbor and Lakeshore Drive.

Anyone who recognizes the burglars or has any information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512.

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