In the first six months of this year, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) received 333 reports of car burglaries. 307 of those vehicles were unlocked. Yes – the vast majority of break-ins are the result of someone simply opening a door and rifling through the inside of the vehicle to see what can be found! Sometimes they find nothing – other times they score wallets, credit cards, cash, electronics and even loaded firearms.
During the 333 car burglaries reported to the OCSO from January through June, 42 guns were taken. When these guns end up in the wrong hands, it’s potentially a major public safety threat.
Car burglaries are usually crimes of opportunity. They can involve a group of teens roaming a neighborhood to simply see what they can find – or an organized group from out of state targeting specific areas of interest in ongoing crime sprees. Stolen weapons typically end up on the streets, being used to commit more crimes, or being sold to gain cash for narcotics.
Other spin-off crimes from car burglaries involve identity theft and fraud. If your wallet or purse is taken along with your identification and credit cards or checks, chances are good the thieves are going to try to quickly take advantage of any opportunity to cash in on their find using your easily obtained name and financial information. Dealing with that aftermath can be a huge, stressful hassle.
We always advise everyone to lock your doors, take your keys and take or hide your valuables. Certainly, make sure any firearm is secure!
We emphasize taking or hiding your valuables, because even when someone does lock his or her car door, we do have the less frequent rash of what are called “Smash and Grab” car burglaries. The thieves will smash a window to get inside, typically because they can see an item in plain view that they want – whether a laptop, a handbag or anything else of value.
On Aug. 19 of this year, five individuals committed a rash of smash and grab car burglaries from Destin and its adjacent unincorporated areas across Fort Walton Beach. Breaking into approximately 60 vehicles, they obtained more than $700 in cash and netted five firearms. During the course of the investigation, the OCSO received vital information that led to the development of a possible suspect vehicle. An address for the registered owner of that vehicle came back to a location in Navarre in Santa Rosa County. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office found the suspect vehicle at that address. Deputies and officers from that agency, the OCSO and the Ft. Walton Beach Police Department responded, ultimately taking all five individuals into custody on felony charges connected to the crime spree.
Citizen assistance, law enforcement cooperation, and law enforcement persistence can have a massive, positive impact on crime in a community. One of the best things about living in Okaloosa County and Northwest Florida is we have that level of cooperative commitment to a crime-fighting partnership.
We appreciate all our citizens and visitors alike do to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity. It is a crucial part of maintaining our quality of life.
Please remember to lock your doors to your home and vehicles, don’t leave your keys in your car, and take or hide your valuables from inside your vehicle as well. Those simple steps: Lock, Take, & Hide can leave thieves empty-handed, preventing you from becoming a victim.
To report suspicious activity, call the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office anytime at 850-651-7400. Report crime tips anonymously to Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at 850-863-TIPS, EmeraldCoastCrimeStoppers.com, or by using the P3 Tips Mobile Application.
We all have a vested interest in having a safe community. Thank you for all your contributions to that effort!