Man arrested in Bartram Park car break-ins

Investigators say 23-year-old targeted unlocked cars

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Barry Hoover is the president of the homeowner's association at the Arrowood subdivision in Bartram Park, and he's also the victim of a recent car burglary.

"I made the mistake of accidentally leaving my car unlocked, and I came into my car to find out my glove compartment was all over my front seat," Hoover said in a phone interview.

He said that last Thursday night, at least six more of his neighbors got hit as well.

Investigators blame 23-year-old Jesse Hicks (pictured right) for the car break-ins.

An off-duty St. Johns County deputy said he caught Hicks with a truck full of stolen property after pulling him over just across the Duval-St. Johns county line.

Police said Hicks, of St. Augustine, was able to sneak through the gated entrance. It's not difficult for anyone to get into a community like Arrowood. Drivers can wait for homeowners to drive up and open the gate, and follow them in.

According to police, Hicks stole iPods, iPads, chargers and whatever he could get his hands on. Police said all the cars he broke into were unlocked.

In neighborhoods where there are a lot of homes in a generally small area, like at Arrowood, crooks can go from car to car quickly, jiggling door handles, and when they finally find one, they can open it up and grab whatever's inside.

"Often times people make the mistake of leaving items in their seats," said Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson.

He said that in this case and in so many others, it's just too easy for the thieves.

"This is a classic case of a crime of opportunity," Jefferson said. "You give a thief an opportunity to make you a victim, they're going to do it. And the way to give them that opportunity is by leaving your doors unlocked, making it very accessible for them to go right into it."

Hoover said he's not going to let this happen to him again. And the homeowner's association is stepping in as well.

"It's part of the reason, among a few others, that we're installing cameras in the very near future in the community at the gate," Hoover said.

Hicks is facing several charges of burglary. Police say he has several previous arrests on charges including aggravated battery and theft.

Investigators said they're also looking for a man they believe may have helped Hicks with these burglaries. They said they're working on getting an arrest warrant for that man.

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