65ºF

Night-vision goggles help police catch roving band of burglars

Thieves used saws to cut off locks, pry bars to tear apart doors

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Titusville police said in one night, a high-end, high-value industrial complex just two blocks from police headquarters lost $30,000 worth of merchandise to burglars who pried and sawed their way in.

After that, Titusville police Lt. T.J. Wright said it wouldn't happen again.

Astrotech.

"There are custom car companies, motorcycle shops, boat companies, space industries all over here," Wright said. "Like Astrotech, which is a multibillion-dollar corporation as far as government contracts go that feed our space industry. It's very vital to our city."

Detectives found door handles on the ground outside the entrances to the businesses. The doors were destroyed, appearing to have been ripped apart with power tools.

“A great deal of force was used to break through the hard steel door,” Wright said. “They were cutting off door handles or bashing them off with whatever they had, maybe a sledge hammer.”

Evidence left behind by burglars in Titusville.

Wright said patrol officers staked out the complex with night-vision goggles.

Two nights after the break-ins, officers spotted a couple of stealthy cars sneaking through the complex.

"Here comes two vehicles driving down the road with no headlights on," Wright said. "[The goggles] allowed our officers to see the vehicles coming down the road with lights off, taillights off -- what we call blacked out -- into this dark area. Because of this, we were able to get vehicle descriptions, see into the car, see the occupants through the windshield and everything."

Wright said officers were able to stop both cars and capture the suspects after they got out and ran.

Wright said three men and one woman were arrested: Terrill Williams, Shane Townsend, Damon Owens and Jabraisa Crankfield.

[RELATED: Here’s how Flagler deputies keep tabs on known criminals | Blood left behind on DeLand ATM helps crack burglary ring]

Detectives found burglary tools inside their vehicle, including a battery-powered drill with a metal saw blade attached, according to Wright.

Police believe the four are responsible for other burglaries in the area and even outside of Central Florida. Investigators are still working to connect the group to those cases.

Police said roving bands of burglars are becoming more of a problem statewide. Officials said they’ll drive around Florida from town to town targeting businesses and moving on before investigators can connect the crimes.


About the Author: