Technology leads to smash-and-grab recovery, suspects evade cops — for now

Technology led police to stolen items from a string of smash-and-grabs on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

While victims recovered some of their belongings, the perpetrator escaped arrest — at least so far.

The island caper began the afternoon of June 13 in Holmes Beach and included two vehicle burglaries at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive. Thieves moved into Bradenton Beach with one burglary at Cortez Beach, 1100 Gulf Drive S. and five at Coquina Beach, 1500-1900 Gulf Drive S.

“They stole the tags off two vehicles on Sunrise Lane” in Holmes Beach, Detective Sgt. Brian Hall said.

“And at some point,” he added, police believe the thieves put the tags on two other vehicles and “committed two burglaries at our beach and then went up the island and through Longboat Key.”

Car, van and SUV windows were smashed.

Wallets and purses with cash, credit cards, driver’s licenses and checks, as well jewelry and other items were stolen.

In each burglary, the valuables were in plain view.

“They had to see them,” Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Lenard Diaz said about the stolen items.

Police issued “be-on-the-alert” warnings to law enforcement as the crimes occurred.

Two more vehicles were hit on Longboat Key, at the beach access for Broadway Street and at 3355 Gulf of Mexico Drive at the Westfield Street beach access.

Longboat Key police worked with other local agencies, reporting the town’s tag readers showed a white Infinity and maroon Cadillac with stolen tags entered Longboat Key at 5 p.m.

Then law enforcement followed another lead.

With information on a stolen iPad, Holmes Beach police pinged the tablet, which led authorities to two garbage bags of stolen items — including the iPad — in a dumpster at a Shell gas station at 5100 Fruitville Road, near the I-75 interchange in Sarasota County.

The reported smash-and-grabs included:

  • At 4:13 p.m., HBPD responded to the Manatee Public Beach, where visitors from Colorado and Oklahoma reported an iPad, headphones, purse, wallet and $1,000 were stolen from a rental van. The family had arrived at the beach at 3:45 p.m. and a family member returned 15 minutes later to find the sliding-glass door shattered and items gone.
  • Another burglary was reported at the Manatee beach when a visitor found her SUV rear window smashed and a purse — containing $150, glasses and driver’s license — stolen.

Six similar vehicle burglaries hit Bradenton Beach 1:30-5 p.m. near Coquina and Cortez beaches.

  • At 1100 Gulf Drive S., a Palmetto woman reported a red purse, jewelry, makeup and schoolbooks stolen.
  • At 1500 Gulf Drive S., a woman from Dunedin reported her Michael Kors purse, $80, jewelry, glasses, house and car keys stolen.
  • At 1600 Gulf Drive S., stolen from a Kissimmee woman was jewelry valued at $2,364, sunglasses and a purse and wallet, containing $1,500, debit and credit cards, driver’s license and passport.
  • At 1600 Gulf Drive S., a Bradenton Beach woman reported $500 stolen with her purse.
  • At 1800 Gulf Drive S., a Plant City woman reported a leather purse, $350 and checks were stolen. The woman told police her credit union reported someone attempting to cash her checks.
  • At 1900 Gulf Drive S., a purse with $64, debit, credit and identification cards belonging to a woman from Port Richey was stolen.

On Longboat Key, police responded to a burglary at the Broadway Street beach access at 5:33 p.m. A Bradenton woman told the LBKPD she left her vehicle unlocked at 5:15 p.m., returned 10 minutes later and her burlap bag with a cellphone, hammock and water bottle were stolen. Police found no evidence of forced entry.

Another theft on Longboat Key at the Westfield Street beach access came in at 5:45 p.m. A wallet and purse containing $500, bank cards and driver’s licenses were stolen. Fingerprints were taken.

No cash was recovered and all the cases are under investigation, according to law enforcement in the three cities.

Detectives acknowledged, however, there’s little to go on.

According to Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office reports, there was no surveillance camera near the gas station dumpster.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Holmes Beach police at 941-708-COPS, Bradenton Beach police at 941-778-4766 or to report anonymous tips, call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-634-TIPS (8477).