DeLand police issue warning after rash of vehicle burglaries

Residents urged to remove valuables from vehicles

DeLAND, Fla. – After more than a dozen smash-and-grab car burglaries in recent weeks, DeLand police officials are warning residents to stay vigilant and also to remove valuables from their vehicles.

The most recent incident was reported overnight Wednesday in the Crystal Cove area, marking the 18th break-in since May 24. Police said in every instance, the burglar smashed a car's window to get inside. 

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"All electronics, guns, purses, wallets, and change are the most sought after items. Remember to remove these items from your vehicle every night," police said in a statement.

Lila Farley said the car her daughter uses was broken into overnight Wednesday. By Friday, the window had been replaced but there were still bits of glass inside the vehicle.

"She had a couple of nice purses stolen, but luckily she didn't have any money in it," Farley said.

Police added that they believe all 18 incidents are connected and they are stepping up patrols in the area as they seek the person responsible.

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"The Police Department reaches out to our residents and says, 'We need you to leave your car locked,'" Chris Graham, community information specialist for the city of DeLand, said. "But these criminals are taking this one step further. Car burglaries are crimes of opportunity, usually. People are just finding those easy opportunities to take something valuable. But it is very unusual to see someone brazenly breaking windows and taking valuables out of people's cars." 

Victims told News 6 that bags, purses, headphones and other items were stolen. In some cases, they were later found dumped on the street.

"Busted the window when they saw the gym bag inside," Sean Bantner, whose car was also burglarized overnight Wednesday, said.  "(The burglar) pulled it out through the window, unzipped the bag, realized it wasn't anything but some dirty clothes and dropped it by the tree over there." 

While police continue to look for whoever is responsible, Bantner is taking his own precautions.

"I just bought a security system," he said. "I really don't have that many valuable things, but I really want to catch the person, catch him on camera and have him put in jail." 

Farley hopes police are able to find the person responsible. In the meantime, her daughter got quite a life lesson. 

"I'd be happy to have my stuff returned," she said. "(My daughter's) purses, maybe she'll learn to not keep things in the car." 

Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to call the DeLand Police Department at 386-626-7400 or 386-943-8276.

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