VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. -

Home invasions often occur in urban areas, but in Volusia County, thieves are going off the beaten path and are leaving a path of destruction behind.

At least seven homes have been targeted in a rural area between Deltona and New Smyrna Beach since early March 2012.

Many of the homes are along a five mile stretch off Tomoka Farms Road and are surrounded by deserted dirt roads and acres of land.

"It's just a shame that you can't feel safe," said resident Michael O'Brien, who has lived in the area for 18 years and has never locked his doors.

"This is the first time that I've seen this happen in all the years that I've lived here," said O'Brien.

"It does happen, quite literally, all the time," Volusia County Sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught warned.

Volusia County deputies said there is a common theme in the break-ins: a crook knocks on a door to see if someone's home. When no one answers, they kick-in the front door.

"They go in there and ransack that house," said Haught. "Finding anything of value, whether it be cash or jewelry, computers, even firearms."

Some residents are now installing gates that are secured with a chain. Deputies said that's a good start.

"What these criminals want to do is make an easy score," said Haught.

Haught said it's important for homeowners to make their home a hard target. He advised closing curtains to keep thieves from looking in and seeing what's in your home. 

Also, he said add strong locks, heavy-duty doors, motion lights, and leave your TV on to give the impression that someone is home.

O'Brien and his neighbors have now learned the hard way.

"Now, we're all looking out for each other a lot more," said O'Brien.

Officers said since the crimes happened in such a rural area, not many people are around to see the crooks, but when someone is there who does not belong, people tend to take notice.

So far, no arrests have been made, but detectives believe the same people are responsible for the rash of burglaries.