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Bradenton Police see surge in thefts

MANATEE — Sergio Jackson woke up this week with his dog barking and a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy banging on his door.

Someone broke into his vehicle and smashed out the rear driver’s side window.

Nothing was taken from the locked vehicle, according to reports. Jackson left a T-shirt covering a large box that possibly enticed the burglars to make entry.

“They were looking for something quick or they were just trying to expel some energy,” he said, adding that he also had gifts inside the vehicle that were left untouched.

Jackson, 33, was one of about seven residents in Sabal Harbor who had their vehicles broken into. Authorities advised him to remove all valuables and to continue to keep the doors locked on his vehicle to deter thefts.

“That’s what they suggested this time of year. They said there should be an increase,” Jackson said.

Law enforcement agencies have already noticed a surge in thefts in some areas.

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said car break-ins and shoplifting has increased over the past month compared to the same time last year by about 35 percent.

The chief said he attributes the increase in thefts due to the holidays and the struggling economy.

“Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times we’re living in,” he said. “You want to make sure you lock your door and remove your GPS systems and purses. ... A lot of these are crimes of opportunity. They see no one is around and they are going to try and steal it.”

In November 2008, Bradenton Police had 96 thefts reported, including car break-ins and shop lifting. This November, that figure jumped to 129, Radzilowski said.

Most of the Bradenton break-ins occurred throughout central locations in the city.

Dave Bristow, public information officer for Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said car break-ins have decreased compared to the level they were previously. Specific statistics were not available Wednesday afternoon from the sheriff’s office.

Bristow attributes the decrease in car break-ins to public awareness.

“We’re still having them, but the stats are down,” he said. “Certainly with the holidays here, everyone is a potential target in the shopping centers. We’re reminding people to not leave a bunch of valuables in the car and to lock the doors.”

For victims like Jackson, he now has his guard up.

Removing packages and valuables is “something you would figure to do at the mall — not at your own house in a decent subdivision,” he said.

“I’ve got to keep everything locked. It should have been already, but you just have to be in tune with what’s going on.”

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.