Police Cite Holidays, Economy, Budget Cuts For Burglary Spike

CORAL GABLES (CBS4) – It has not been the most wonderful time of the year for Coral Gables homeowner Susan Murray.

Murray returned to her house near LeJeune Road December 10th after a quick trip to run errands, and found a window screen lying on the floor in her downstairs den.

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She immediately thought burglars had entered the house, but since her computers and other electronics were untouched, she assumed her dog, Bella, had scared the intruders away.

She was wrong.

“I went upstairs and saw that all my jewelry had been stolen,” Murray told CBS4’s Gary Nelson. “They emptied all my jewelry into my travel jewelry bag and took it. Fifty years of earrings.”

Murray said the jewelry was worth several thousand dollars and had “priceless” sentimental value.

She is among Coral Gables homeowners who have been burglarized in recent weeks in an apparent wave coursing primarily across neighborhoods on the north end of town.

“It’s terrible,” Murray said. “I was only gone for an hour. I went out to lunch in the neighborhood and to the bank. It was very quick.”

She made the mistake of leaving a window open to take advantage of the cool weather. The thief or thieves managed to climb through the window, pushing the screen out, despite it being very narrow and six feet off the ground.

“People need to remember to take basic precautions,” said Kelly Denham, a spokesperson for the Coral Gables police department. “Keep you doors and windows locked and keep an eye out for your neighbors. Don’t hesitate to call us if you see something or someone suspicious.”

A review of police calls on the city’s website revealed that 18 residential burglaries were committed in the last month across an area generally north of Coral Way.

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Real estate agent Janie Coffey said her attention was drawn to the rash of burglaries as she showed properties in the neighborhoods and heard stories from residents who said they had been targeted.

On her website, TheCoralGablesStory.com, Coffey said she reviewed police records that showed the city’s “zone three” district, the Granada area, “had twice the residential burglaries in the past two months than it did the previous two months,”

Coffey said she wanted residents to be aware of the burglaries and take measures to protect themselves.

On Salzedo Street, Clara Waller said her neighbor’s home was recently burglarized.

“This used to be a very nice section, a very nice neighborhood,” Waller said. “It has changed.”

The police department’s Denham said detectives were working promising leads that could solve a significant number of the recent burglary cases, but was unable to release details to the public, citing the sensitive nature of the on-going investigation.

A potential break came as good news for Susan Murray, who lost family heirlooms in her burglary.

“Where’s my jewelry? That’s what I want. I want the jewelry back,” Murray said.

Denham said there could be a combination of reasons for the apparent spike in break-ins: An increase that comes with the holiday season, the difficult economy, and reductions in police services.

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“We have had budget cuts and cuts to overtime,” Denham said, resulting in fewer officers patrolling the streets.