LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Acting on a string of vehicle and residential burglaries in Lakewood Ranch, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office has arrested several juveniles who reside in the community.
The trend of burglaries occurred along the north end of the community, which consists of the Summerfield, Riverwalk and Greenbrook villages. Vehicle windows were smashed and items such as laptop computers, electronic equipment and purses were stolen.
On Tuesday, Lt. Rick Gerken asked Lakewood Ranch staff to relay a message: hide valuable items in your vehicles.
"The sheriff's office will continue to take proactive measures to apprehend the person(s) responsible however, partnership and participation from the community is extremely important in making it harder for the persons responsible to operate in our Lakewood Ranch community," Gerken wrote in an email to Lakewood Ranch staff.
Lakewood Ranch community officials have emphasized the importance of residents securing their valuables, locking their car doors at night and making sure garage doors are closed.
"Many times, these incidents could be avoided if they remove the valuables from their car," said Keith Davey, a community district supervisor from Greenbrook and chair of the district's safety committee.
"Why make an obvious target of your valuables?" said Alan Roth, a district supervisor from Summerfield/Riverwalk and safety committee chairman for the Summerfield/Riverwalk Village Homeowners Association.
Although Lakewood Ranch had its first homicide this year, and several armed home invasions last year, it has one of Manatee County's lowest crime rates. An arrest was made in the home invasions, but the homicide remains unsolved.
According to the department's crime reports, in 2009, there were 124 vehicle burglaries in a patrol zone area of Lakewood Ranch compared to 77 in 2010. That number increased in 2011 to 90. In another zone located in Lakewood Ranch, the number of vehicle burglaries have steadily decreased. In 2009, there were 117 reports of car break-ins, compared to 111 in 2010 and 82 in 2011.
All three neighborhoods are patrolled by a security service. The Summerfield/Riverwalk neighborhoods are patrolled 60 hours per week by Diamond Security while Greenbrook is patrolled 40 hours per week by U.S. Security and Associates.
Patrolling Lakewood Ranch has been a campaign issue debated by incumbent Sheriff Brad Steube and challenger Bill Waldron. Waldron said the community requires increased visible law enforcement while Steube said the area receives the same coverage as any other patrol zone.
Residents are also asked to call 911 if they notice any suspicious activity.
"People have to take some accountability and responsibility," Davey said.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter: @_1NickWilliams