BRADENTON — With an attacker at large, about 50 Riverview Boulevard residents gathered for a neighborhood watch meeting Thursday night, learning from police what they can do to protect their homes from invasions.
Three victims from the 10 attacks in Sarasota and Manatee counties reside in this neighborhood. It remains unknown if the violent attacks and robberies are being committed by the same person, but there are similarities, according to authorities. A man standing 6 feet tall and weighing about 180 pounds targets upper middle-class residential neighborhoods and mostly female victims.
In most cases, the victims are older than 50. The suspect often wears dark-colored clothing and a ski mask. It’s unclear what his race is, and victims have been unable to give a detailed description to authorities.
Residents did not discuss the cases that began in February. Instead they learned from Bradenton Police ways they can try to protect themselves.
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Sgt. Lori Millard told residents to look at ways they can improve safety features on their homes.
Millard encouraged residents to have phone chains in place after contacting police in the event they see someone suspicious running.
“They can run from the police, but how can they run from a hundred set of eyes?” she said. “ ‘Oh, he’s running over here now. He’s jumping a fence.’ That’s how we catch something in progress.”
Millard suggested keeping homes well lit at night, putting up see-through fences, using landscape and natural barriers to secure homes, and making sure doors are locked. She said it’s also important to know your neighbors.
The neighborhood watch group has been in existence off and on for years, said City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, who resides in the neighborhood.
However, with the recent attacks beginning in February and no arrests, citizens are refocusing efforts on the neighborhood watch group.
“There’s always a need for neighborhood watch. Our residents can be the police department’s eyes and ears. If you are in a neighborhood, you know what’s regular activity,” she said.
Law enforcement has urged residents to keep doors locked and be more aware of surroundings.
“I think all of us are aware of the recent invasions that have occurred,” Barnebey said, addressing residents. “It’s very important we look out for one another. I am begging you to do that. I am asking you to take responsibility for yourself and your neighbors. One garage door open, a door left unlocked, a window left open — that’s all it takes these days.”
The group’s next meeting is slated for May 14 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 3200 Manatee Ave. W.
Upcoming topics include personal safety, scams and fraud. To contact the group, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.