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Spate of Car Burglaries and Thefts Strikes Westchase

Last week The Bridges was hit. This week, on April 17, thieves struck again in Keswick Forest and Bennington.

“Overall there have been 30 burglaries of unlocked car doors over the last week,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Hugh Alter.

One homeowner in Keswick Forest and one in Bennington saw more than small items taken. In their cases the thieves located spare keys in the cars and drove off with them as well.

Cristal Nunez, Public Information Officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) stated that four to five juvenile males broke into approximately 10-15 cars in Keswick Forest and Bennington in the early morning hours of April 17. The suspects entered the area in a white 2013-2017 Audi A4. “We’re thinking it’s possible the vehicle was stolen. We’re trying to confirm that,” she added.

Stolen from Keswick Forest was a gray 2012 Lexus RX300 (tag 753WBH). Taken from Bennington was a white 2001 BMW 528I (tag 826LWW).

Electronics, including GPSes, computers, a backpack, personal information, and a briefcase were stolen from the other cars entered. Others were simply ransacked by the thieves looking for valuables. “We’re trying to lift prints from the other vehicles,” stated Nunez.

Nunez added, “We obtained some surveillance video yesterday from the homes and we’re reviewing that video. We’ve disseminated it to the media and Crime Stoppers. Hopefully someone will identify these suspects.”

Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200. Individuals who have any information regarding the suspects’ identities and whereabouts and who want to be eligible for a cash reward are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477). Residents can also report anonymously online at http://www.crimestopperstb.com or send a mobile tip using the HCSO’s P3 Tips Mobile application, which is a free download for iPhones, iPads and Droids. Tipsters, however, must call Crime Stoppers first to be eligible for a reward.

Alter stated that last week 15 cars were also burglarized in The Bridges. “It doesn’t appear to be the same group,” he cautioned of the thieves. “We don’t have any solid leads at this point and the stolen cars have not been recovered at this point.”

All 30 cars burglarized over the past two weeks had one thing in common: their owners had left them unlocked.

Deputies patrolling Westchase offer the same advice repeatedly: residents can avoid falling victim to the most common local crimes by removing all personal belongings from cars, locking them securely and keeping their garage doors closed. Cars parked outside should also have their garage door openers removed. Once a car’s interior is accessed, thieves commonly use the device to open the garage door.

Describing a trip through Westchase made with member of the media last week, Alter added, “We found 80 plus homes with open garage doors during the day throughout Westchase. Even if you live in a gated or non-gated community, you have to lock your car doors.”

It seems of added importance this week. “Westchase seems to be a hot target right now,” Alter said.

Alter closed by asking residents in the affected neighborhoods to check their security camera footage for suspicious activity and notify the sheriff’s office if they have useful images.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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