NAVARRE — Three recent arrests clear 28 burglary cases in one Navarre neighborhood, according to Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Rich Aloy. However, he said, the victims could have taken one step to prevent the crimes: lock their car doors.
The Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office YouTube account has multiple videos depicting the problem.
One video, titled, “Don't be a target to these criminals in Navarre,” states that since the beginning of 2017, in Navarre, there have been 41 vehicle burglaries, 16 stolen vehicles and seven stolen guns with one thing in common: the victims’ car doors being unlocked.
The same video shows surveillance footage in which a suspect passes up a white truck upon finding the door locked.
“It’s a consistent problem,” Aloy said, “the No. 1 crime in Santa Rosa County.”
The impacts are financial to the county, time for the sheriff’s office, and in some cases immeasurable to the victims.
One burglar may steal from multiple cars on a street, but each theft affects a separate victim, requiring his or her own investigation; that means a separate report, interview, crime scene investigation, fingerprinting and evidence submission, Aloy said.
“It’s costing the county all of the manpower required to process the vehicles at the crime scene," he said.
Meanwhile, deputies still have other calls to answer.
“We still have a shift to maintain. We still have to respond to other people’s calls; in-progress crimes. There are so many other things we could be doing. Myself, I’ve said, ‘Listen, ma’am, I’ll be back later. I have a bank alarm going off.’ It’s a lot of work for not locking your car.”
The department has been able to start hiring more deputies due to the Santa Rosa County Commission’s approval of 10 percent raises. But the case of recent Navarre robberies may have resulted in overtime costs to the department.
“That evening a deputy was working the call," Aloy said. "We had to bring detectives on their off time. There could be overtime.” The case is still ongoing.
And items with monetary value aren't the only things stolen.
“We’ve had people say, ‘I don’t want the wallet back, but the picture of my father from 1953.’ Some things in the car are irreplaceable, pictures of kids, family heirlooms,” Aloy said.
Burglars taking advantage of unlocked vehicle doors is a problem not isolated to Santa Rosa County.
News 4 Jax reported in August of 2016 that Gainesville police have seen a 50 percent increase in the number of burglaries from the previous year, a majority where cars were left unlocked. Within a three-month period, investigators determined thieves stole 19 firearms from vehicles, many unlocked.
In June, the Tennessean in reported 48 percent of its 49 vehicle burglaries since May happened to unlocked vehicles. The same story reported seven handgun thefts, all from unlocked cars.
Of the three handguns deputies recovered in Navarre, thieves stole two of them once before from unlocked vehicles, according to Sheriff Johnson.
“The victim has a choice. They’ve made themselves a target,” Aloy said.