ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – More than a dozen town homes under construction have been burglarized in St. Johns County.
A series of construction site thefts occurred between Monday night and Tuesday morning on Servia Drive off Longleaf Pine Parkway, near St. Johns Parkway.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said it received on Wednesday two more reports of construction site break-ins on nearby Stone Creek Circle off County Road 210.
Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said thieves are taking advantage of the fact the county is growing exponentially.
"They are using large cargo trucks, potential lifts. They are loading all these appliances up at one time and they're rolling out with them, and some individuals are doing this as an income source," Mulligan told News4Jax.
To the average person in St. Johns County, the model homes on Servia Drive are a site of a growing community, but according to the Sheriff's Office, the neighborhood under construction is just another jackpot in a string of burglaries targeting construction sites.
"They went systematically into each one of these residences that are yet to be occupied, stealing appliances which had recently been put in," Mulligan said.
According to incident reports, 17 townhomes in the Palisades at Durbin were burglarized.
The thieves stole 16 air-conditioning components and five stoves. The thieves entered the homes by prying open sliding glass doors and cutting electrical wiring so they could get away with the units -- tens of thousands of dollars' worth of appliances that could now be sold elsewhere.
Deputies said a stove, dishwasher, oven and gas cooktop were taken from two homes under construction on Stone Creek Circle.
"They are moving these through the black market," Mulligan said. "They may be taking them to other states, where they can transfer quickly."
Mulligan said sometimes thieves will go as far as dressing up as construction workers. As the county grows, he added, deputies will rely heavily on the help of other agencies to prevent the thieves from taking it that far.
"Hopefully, somewhere in the northeast Florida area -- be it (the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office), our agency or another agency -- we will get a tip or a lead and hear that these are being sold on the black market, and many times, we are able to make an arrest," Mulligan said.
Deputies said that there were tire tracks in the sod near Servia Drive, indicating the appliances had been loaded onto a large dual-wheel vehicle.
Anyone with information is asked to anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS.