Lock the car

Lock the car
Auto break-ins are more common this time of year, according to the Bradenton Beach Police Department. - Jason Schaffer | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – For the most part, Anna Maria Island is a pretty safe place to visit, according to local police statistics.

Violent crimes are low, and most serious crimes involving bodily harm involve people who know each other. The fact that it is fairly safe to take a stroll after dark without the fear of bodily harm is part of the draw of the Island; it doesn’t mean there is no crime. A recent series of auto break-ins prove that both locals and visitors must remain aware that even in paradise, opportunistic criminals will strike when visitors let their guard down.

On the evening of Jan. 17, the Bradenton Beach Police Department (BBPD) responded to multiple vehicle break-ins involving theft of property. It’s the time of year that these incidents tend to happen with more regularity.

In 2022, The Sun reported on multiple vehicle burglaries in both Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach. Most of the thefts were crimes of opportunity in which vehicle owners had left doors unlocked and had items such as iPads, cell phones and laptop computers stolen that were often left in plain sight on seats for thieves to easily identify and steal if there was an unlocked door.

Very few incidents involved the breaking of a window or damage to the car because of forced entry.

Recent thefts involved vehicles from 17th Street North to 10th Street South and Bradenton Beach police believe it was most likely the same person or group of people that were just looking for unlocked doors on parked cars. “No vehicles were broken into by force,” Bradenton Beach Police Lt. Lenard Diaz said. “We believe this was the work of people simply looking for unlocked doors and an easy grab. Since it all happened in the same night, it’s probably the same people in all of the incidents.”

Diaz said the best defense for this type of crime is simple; lock your doors. Crimes of opportunity such as going through a car with unlocked doors or stealing items from unattended beach chairs or tents is common, but preventable if precautions are taken. Smashing windows to break into a vehicle, or physical robbery, are much less common on the Island.

The best advice from police is to enjoy the Island, but occasionally those that show up don’t have the best intentions. Simply locking up valuables and being aware of the surroundings will prevent most incidents. Also, there are almost no cameras on the beach or in beach parking areas, so these kinds of crimes are very rarely solved. It’s up to beachgoers to make sure they aren’t leaving themselves vulnerable to crime.