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Date of Issue: May 20, 2009

MCSO analyzing burglary tape

Investigators hope that an enhanced surveillance tape of a burglary at the Waterfront Restaurant will help them crack the case.

Meanwhile, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office lab is analyzing fingerprints from a burglary at the Beach Bistro.

Law enforcement officials in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria have reported a series of after-hours business burglaries in recent months.

Businesses that have been burglarized include Acqua Aveda Spa and Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach and the Waterfront Restaurant, Two Scoops Ice Cream, Two Sides of Nature, City Pier Restaurant and Beach Fitness Club in Anna Maria.

Authorities are looking into whether the crimes are related, as well as advising Island businesses and residents to take precautions to protect their property.

“It’s all premature,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Kenney said regarding a connection between the crimes.

But, Kenney stressed, the method of operation is similar in most of the cases and, until recent months, the Island “hadn’t had any problems.”

The first business burglary this year occurred at Acqua Aveda on Gulf Drive on Feb. 1.

The Holmes Beach Police Department report stated that a barbell wrapped in a towel was used to shatter the glass door to enter the salon and a thief or thieves stole about $1,185 in cash, as well as a blank check.

HBPD collected latent fingerprints.

Also an employee told HBPD that on Jan. 31 two men who gave her a bad vibe entered the salon as cash was being counted in a drawer and made appointments for haircuts on Feb. 1. The men did not keep the appointments and the contact number they provided was invalid.

At the Beach Fitness Club in Anna Maria April 7, another burglary took place, with “unknown persons” breaking in through the door.

On April 12, a thief or thieves burglarized the Beach Bistro after prying open a door, taking about $550.

A witness staying above the restaurant reported hearing “banging and crashing,” according to the report, but he thought a cleaning crew was at work.

HBPD collected fingerprints, including from a window frame, a door, a water pitcher and cash box.

The most recent break-ins occurred May 8 at Two Scoops Ice Cream and Two Sides of Nature.

    Kenney said two males apparently entered both stores during regular business hours and opened windows, which they crawled through after business hours.

Kenney said the burglars made off with merchandise from Two Sides of Nature, but also were seen by at least one person.

Surveillance video from another break-in, the one at the nearby Waterfront Restaurant on May 1, may help authorities determine whether, at a minimum, the same people committed the burglaries at the Waterfront, Two Scoops and Two Sides of Nature.

“We’re enhancing the video,” Kenney said.

The video then will be shown to the witness to see whether the Waterfront burglars — both described as males — look like the Two Scoops/Two Sides burglars.

“The video is there, so we are going to see if we can get these guys identified,” Kenney said.

The two Waterfront burglars removed a piece of glass to enter the restaurant without tripping a security alarm, according to the MCSO report.

From a Sentry safe, the burglars took several thousand dollars, according to the report.

“It happened to be a good night,” said Waterfront owner Jason Suzor.

“I think they are working hard,” Suzor said of the investigators on the case. “We’ve got some pretty good shots of these guys.”

In addition to making use of the video, Kenney said MCSO deputies, working with detectives, are “following up every lead we can get, every bit of physical evidence we can find.”

Last week, Kenney said MCSO deputies talked with Longboat Key Police Department officers, who also have reported some burglaries in recent months.

While the investigations continue, Kenney said the MCSO is notifying businesses “to make sure everything is locked” and to take other precautions.

Holmes Beach Police Department officials also recently contacted business people about crime prevention efforts.

And Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said she is working with the MCSO on a plan to promote crime prevention efforts.

Life on Anna Maria Island can be casual, the mayor said, but people should not be casual about crime prevention

“We’re going to come up with a plan for business and a plan for residents,” said Barford. “Maybe have a forum.”

Part of the plan may involve encouraging property owners to contact the MCSO crime prevention unit to request an inspection.

Other crime tips, some offered by the MCSO, and some from the Retail Industry Leaders Association, include:

  • Make your building look difficult to break in.
  • Check to make sure all doors and windows are locked before leaving.
  • Leave a light on when closing up.
  • Use deadbolt locks when possible.
  • Conduct employee background checks.
  • Replace vulnerable doors.
  • Have adequate exterior lighting.
  • Make sure door hinges are on the inside.
  • Use keys that cannot be duplicated.
  • Do not make a habit of leaving cash in a register.
  • Install a security alarm and use it.
  • Install a surveillance system and make sure it is continually operating.

Suzor took a lot of precautions to protect his restaurant, but has taken some others since the burglary, such as eliminating any opportunity to bypass the alarm.

The burglary, he said, “has made us a little closer together and more conscious of what can happen.”