Lake County deputies use drone video message to curb car break-ins

Sheriff's office reminds residents to lock their doors

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - More than 20 families in the Park Hill subdivision in Leesburg woke up on the morning of Jan. 28 to find their vehicles had been burglarized.

"They felt violated," Lake County Sheriff's Office detective Cpl. Erica Rodriguez said.

Patrol deputies scrambled to the subdivision to take 24 reports and quickly passed the information on to detectives. Detectives met with all 24 families to generate leads.

"And then, all the leads and info that we received from that point, we took and started conducting our own investigation," Rodriguez said. "The information that they give us may not mean anything to them, but may mean something to us."

Rodriguez said every single car that was burglarized had been left unlocked.

"So they basically went through every driveway and attempted to open up and see if any vehicles were unsecured," Rodriguez said.

The break-ins in Park Hill mirror the rash of car burglaries that Lake County has been experiencing since late last year.

Detectives said around 300 cars -- most of them unlocked -- have been burglarized across the county during the past six months.

To get the message out, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell made a video using a drone.

The video was recorded in Park Hill. It shows sweeping overhead shots of the streets where the burglarized cars were parked.

"If we can put a visual to it, this is not just a neighborhood -- this is your neighborhood," Sgt. Fred Jones said. "No matter where you live, this is your neighborhood. No neighborhood is safe from that. It was interesting to see the big picture. And that's what that drone allowed us to do, to see the big picture, a community as a whole. This is where you live, sleep, where kids go out and play. Help us help you keep it safe."

The Sheriff's Office posted the video on its Facebook page. It has been viewed more than 16,000 times.

Jones said people have been told to lock the doors on their cars and homes so many times, it either becomes white noise or people get busy and forget.

"I can drive through a neighborhood and see parents getting out of the car with two kids in tow. It's one of those things you forget if you don't pay attention to it," Jones said.

Jones said the video is a reminder.

"I think it is getting results, and, you know, using social media -- that's the platform everyone is using right now," Jones said. "Every time a citizen picks up the phone and calls it in, we get a little closer. We have made some arrests."

Jones said reports of car burglaries lately are a fraction of what they were just a few weeks ago.

"At one point, we were seeing seven break-ins here, 12 break-ins over here," Jones said. "Since that video, I think that people are starting to pay more attention and lock doors."

Detectives said they're checking to see if the two men they arrested are connected to the rash of burglaries, and they're using the information and evidence they've collected to track down other suspects.

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