Thieves hit dozens of brand new Jacksonville homes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Brazen burglars are breaking into brand new homes in broad daylight and one Jacksonville company is taking new measures to stop them.

The target: Homes up for sale and rent across the River City.

Alex Sifakis, the president of JWB Real Estate, said the crooks are taking outside A/C units, appliances -- anything they can get their hands on. He said it’s happening around the clock.

On the outside, passersby see a beautiful new home, revitalizing a neighborhood where vacant properties and run down buildings are being replaced.

On the inside, it’s a crime scene.

“This home has been hit twice,” Sifakis said as he opened the door to a home on Ralph Street in Riverside.

While the newly built house sat for rent, thieves took advantage of it being unoccupied. They kicked in the back door, stole the air handler and appliances. The grand total of things taken is around $8,000.

It’s happening all over town on a weekly basis, according to Sifakis. JWB owned and managed properties in Riverside, Murray Hill, the Northside, the Southside and at the Beaches have all been hit.

The company builds and renovates homes, manages them and sells them to investors. There are nearly 3,200 throughout the River City.

In 2019, the company reported approximately 60 thefts citywide. In 2017, there were around 70. Leaders hope the new measures will cut numbers in 2020.

They’ve invested in a private investigator and surveillance equipment, using hidden cameras that have caught the crooks in action. They’ve handed over dozens of pictures to police, and some of the HVAC units and appliances now have secret GPS trackers.

They’ve handed over dozens of pictures to police.

“There’s definitely some organized rings," Sifakis said. "We’ve put a couple people in jail. There’s consistencies where we find a person with an A/C in their home three times. Finally, the third time, we get them on camera and we get to press charges.”

Across the city and country, numbers are hard to track. Many companies don’t report thefts, worried about insurance hikes. Detectives said it’s a constant issue. Nationwide, losses top $1 billion.

Sifakis wants people to look out for suspicious activity and share the pictures.

“We have a lot of pictures of these thieves,” he said. “So we’d love for the public’s help to be able to put these out and to have people let us know who they are.”

Burglary detectives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are investigating the cases. If you know anything, call police at 904-630-0500.

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