SOUTH MIAMI (CBS4) – Police in South Miami have arrested a 16-year-old serial burglar who they say has broken into more than 30 homes in their city and Miami-Dade since January, taking at least $15,000 in property from the victims.
“What’s important is we’ve gotten him off the street and other people who he is tied to are off the street,” said South Miami Police Major Rene Landa.
In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Major Landa said, “It’s incredible as it is dealing with juveniles in cases like this but when you are dealing with juveniles, you often don’t know whether they are armed or not.”
Landa told D’Oench that the 16-year-old suspect is tied to 7 burglaries at 6 homes and the theft of 3 bicycles in South Miami and has confessed to breaking into 24 other homes in Miami-Dade.
Landa said a break in the case came on Wednesday when Miami-Dade Police set up surveillance in the area of Southwest 60th Avenue and 60th Street.
“This was a joint effort,” said Landa. “Miami-Dade Police deserve a lot of credit.”
Homeowner Steve McNally told D’Oench that the serial burglar was caught by police while trying to break into his home.
“He was in the process of trying to break into the back of my house and going through the kitchen,” said McNally. “He also tried to break into my neighbor’s home by lifting out a screen window.”
Because he is a juvenile, Landa said the serial burglar could not be identified. He said he did live in South Miami. And McNally said he was told by police that the teen burglar did not live far from his home.
“I feel good he is off the street,” said McNally. “Police say he’s only 16 years old. I think a young person with that record needs some type of severe punishment.”
A neighbor actually spotted the serial burglar trying to break into McNally’s home.
“This is a secure neighborhood and it is very friendly, this neighborhood and thank God some neighbors are watching out for me,” said McNally.
Landa said the burglar is tied to two others who were arrested for another burglary in South Miami on March 21st, including another juvenile and 19-year-old Yordy De Jesus Cambon.
“It’s more juveniles with a few adults involved,” said Landa. “It is a burglary ring.”
University of Miami student Colin Rogers said he feels like he’s been under siege at the South Miami that he rents with other students. Police say the serial burglar broke into his home twice recently in two days.
“He took a couple of iPads, a couple of laptops, Xbox games and a thousand dollar watch,” said Rogers. “It’s definitely a huge invasion of privacy. I felt a little bit unsafe.”
Nicolas Bordage was also victimized.
“They took a bicycle and currency, a bunch of cash,” he said. “I feel really sad that someone so young was the burglar. At one point, I saw the face of the burglar and he was really young from the picture I saw. I’m very happy that police arrested him. It was a great accomplishment by police.”
Charles Forehand told D’Oench that he owns the home that Bordage lives in and was damaged by the burglar.
“I don’t feel good about it,” he said. “All of us are going through difficult times right now.”
“I feel very relieved, very relieved that he was caught,” he said. “As a matter of fact I saw the police at a neighbor’s house a couple of days ago.”
Major Landa said it’s often helpful if residents have alarms in their homes or security cameras set up that can take images of any would-be burglars.
“But the number one thing that helps has been the community and neighbors and people coming forward when they see suspicious activity,” said Landa.
He urges everyone to watch out for that suspicious activity or persons in their neighborhood. And if they see that, they should call 911 or call their police departments directly.