MANATEE — All expressed relief.
All expressed caution.
“They finally got somebody,” said Lynn Green. “But keep your guard up.”
The 35-year-old woman’s words mirrored those of other Bradenton residents, reacting Tuesday to the announcement that Delmer Smith III, presently jailed in Pinellas County, is a prime suspect in a series of violent home invasions this year that kept Manatee and Sarasota residents on edge.
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Sentiment on the street was strong.
“Outstanding,” said motorcyclist David Lee. “People work hard for what they have.”
“I’m glad,” said Vikki Hicks, a Bradenton native. “I’ve been broken into before, so it makes me feel aglow all over when somebody gets caught.”
Yet they and others, despite the relief over Smith’s arrest, were quick to urge people to remain alert.
“You can never let your guard down. Not with the way things are today,” retiree Marilyn Meaney said.
That Smith is under investigation and not yet charged for any of the home invasions in Manatee still brought satisfaction to people who helped mobilize the community.
“It’s wonderful,” said Noreen Roberts, a Riverview Crime Watch captain. “I think it is the person. If it isn’t, they got someone very bad off the streets. It’s relieved a lot of tension in this neighborhood.”
“I’m very happy. He was a huge scare for a lot of people,” said Realtor Maryann K. Lawler, who kept people apprised via the group’s phone tree and e-mail list.
“There is relief he’s been arrested, especially from those whose lives have been touched by this,” said the Rev. Jim Rosenburg, senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Some parishioners were home invasion victims, and the church subsequently was the site of several crime prevention meetings for the public.
“When people feel it’s not safe to walk in your own neighborhood — or work in your yard — something has to be done,” Rosenburg said. “We have to stay proactive, protect our homes, protect our families.”
That was the message from Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Dawn Stroup and Bradenton City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey. Both were diligent in organizing the citizenry.
“I’m ecstatic, because it’s a piece of the solution to things that have happened,” Stroup said. “But I can’t emphasize enough — know your neighbor, have a means to contact them, and call in suspicious activity to the police. It’s a constant vigil.”
“It’s important to keep an eye out for each other, our children and our grandchildren,” she said. “I’m always happy to see law enforcement catching the bad guys. But is this the person who will be ultimately tied to these brutal acts? Only time will tell.”