SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD Manager
Ken Davis shows where
burglars broke into Rotten Ralph’s in Bradenton Beach
Sunday night. Authorities say one of two suspects
caught breaking into the Waterfront restaurant early
Tuesday morning has admitted also burglarizing
Rotten Ralph’s. The two teens are suspects in
other Island burglaries, as well.
Patrick Banker John O'Keefe
ANNA MARIA – An alert Manatee County Sheriff’s deputy foiled a burglary early Tuesday morning at the Waterfront Restaurant, 111 S. Bay Blvd., and may have solved a big part of the recent mini-crime wave on the Island.
It all began around 1:40 a.m. when Deputy Alan Judy, on his way back from patrolling at Rotten Ralph’s in Anna Maria, spotted a suspicious vehicle.
When he stopped to check it out, he heard glass breaking. He then spotted the two suspects running away.
"He called for backup and a Holmes Beach officer arrived along with deputies from the mainland," said Sergeant John Kenney, who heads the Anna Maria substation. "They set up a perimeter and a canine unit found one of the suspects on the beach near South Bay and the other was picked up on Gulf Drive near city hall."
John J. O’Keefe and Patrick S. Banker, both from Sarasota and both 18-years-old, were arrested. Kenney said they left the loot they had taken from inside near the restaurant. Banker admitted to braking into the Waterfront, but O’Keefe did not, even though he had glass fragments in his arm, according to the sheriff’s office media release. Kenney said the burglars tried to break into the safe and got the cash drawer, but they left it when they ran away.
Kenney said authorities also believe the two were involved in earlier burglaries, including the one on May 1 at the same restaurant. Tuesday morning, detectives took Banker to Rotten Ralph’s at the Bridge Street Pier after he admitted breaking into that restaurant on Sunday, at 5 a.m., according to Dave Russell, owner of the restaurant. He said that Banker showed detectives how they pried open a door and took cash, although the manager of the restaurant said they no longer keep large amounts of cash in the restaurant after hours. Bradenton Beach Detective Lenard Diaz said, after interviewing Banker, he is going to file burglary charges against both suspects, even though O’Keefe denied being involved.
Kenney said they are checking to see if the two might have been involved in other burglaries in Anna Maria, such as those to Beach Fitness, Sue Rics, Two Scoops and the Anna Maria City Pier restaurant.
"We’re working with Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Longboat Key and the mainland to try to solve this rash of burglaries," Kenney said. "We believe these two are responsible for multiple burglaries."
Kenney had praise for the deputy who broke up the burglary.
"Deputy Judy did an outstanding job," Kenney said. "If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be talking about an attempted burglary."
Burglaries aren’t the only crimes local police are dealing with.
Several businesses also have fallen victim to a scheme involving two people who come into a clothing or souvenir store. While one person distracts the clerk by asking about the merchandise in an area of the store away from the cash register, the other takes the clerk’s purse or wallet. It happened at Two Sides of Nature, in Anna Maria, and at the Artists Guild Gallery in Holmes Beach. One of the two suspects, a black woman, has been described as having a small diamond piercing under a lip and/or a gold tooth.
Meanwhile, Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford has asked the Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit to brief businesses on what to look for and how to prevent theft and burglary. She is also working to have a forum in her city to bring residents up to date.
Holmes Beach Police Lieutenant Dale Stephenson issued a press release with crime prevention tips for businesses and homeowners. They include:
• Always be observant of your surroundings. Stay alert to suspicious persons loitering in the area.
• Always lock your home, even when you are home, and close your garage door when not in use.
• Take only the items necessary to conduct your daily business, Keep your purse tucked securely under your arm.
• If you are going to the beach, take only your keys and suntan lotion. If you are going to the public beaches, put your purse and/or wallet in the trunk before you leave home. Don’t do it in the beach parking lot.
• Have at least two employees open and close the business.
• Make sure not to release personal information to strangers.
• Keep purses and personal valuables locked in desks or lockers.
• Place surveillance cameras inside the business and place signs on the property advising of them.
• Vary times and routes if travel for bank deposits. Place excess money in a safe or drop deposit. Keep a low balance in the cash register.
• Keep your business neat and clean. A tidy, orderly workplace is inviting to customers, but not to criminals.
• Stay alert and know who is in your business and where they are. Watch for people who hang around without buying anything. Make mental notes about suspicious vehicles or persons to share with law enforcement.
• Greet customers as they enter your business from the outside. Look them in the eye and ask them if they need any help. Your attention to them can discourage a thief from that crime of opportunity.
• Keep signs from blocking the view of your business from the outside. Make sure if you are open at night that you have lights on outside, as well as inside.
• If you see something suspicious, call the police. Let them check out things the right way and not hours or days later after you have thought about it.
• Make a plan with employees about that they are to do in case of a crime at the business.
• Place a mark on the door at a certain height to make it easier to estimate the height of people coming into your business.
• Make certain that current key holders of the business are on file at your local police department.