A Palm Bay family that had left a high-powered hunting rifle in their unlocked car overnight, woke up to find the rifle missing Wednesday morning.
Palm Bay police officers immediately took the report and brought in detectives who started canvassing the neighborhood and then started searching for surveillance video.
"There was a burglary that happened over there and I'm just seeing if you have any cameras," Detective Jorge Negron asked neighbors.
Negron said surveillance video has been the key to solving several car burglaries.
Last month, when Negron went door to door, he discovered a Palm Bay neighbor had recorded surveillance video of a man pulling handles and rummaging through cars.
Negron said the man was likely looking for cash and would pawn the stolen items. Negron took the surveillance images to pawn stores in the city.
One pawn store manager immediately recognized the person in the picture. Negron said the man in the surveillance picture was Steven Hadfield, a homeless man living in the woods.
Negron set up a surveillance detail near the pawnshop and detectives soon spotted Hadfield riding by on a bicycle. They arrested him.
Detectives said they connected him to 28 burglaries in the City of Palm Bay and close to 100 within Brevard County.
On Monday, detectives arrested three teenagers as young as 14 for breaking into cars. Detectives also identified them using surveillance video and then followed them.
"At one point, they walked up to our unmarked vehicle, looked inside as if they were trying to break into our vehicle," Negron said. "I'm assuming they had no idea we were in there because next thing you know, they walked to the next car beside us and pulled on that handle."
Negron said unlike some departments, the Palm Bay Police Department shares all leads with all officers on the force. Patrol officers know exactly what detectives are working on so they can be on the lookout for suspects.
Negron said once he identifies the suspect who stole the hunting rifle Tuesday night, he will post the suspect's picture everywhere, including on the police department's Facebook page, which routinely gets 70,000 views, and in the briefing room at the police department allowing patrol officers to be on the lookout during their patrols for the individual.
"Patrol is our first defense," Negron said.
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