FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Lake Aire estates community in northwest Fort Lauderdale is a working-class community filled with longtime residents and retirees.

But over the past several months, residents say a crime spree has put the community on edge and leading at least one resident to sleep with a gun.

Longtime resident Bennie Edwards, 76, told CBS4 News that she returned home last Saturday night to find burglars in her house. She said they used a piece of cinder block to break a window, then ransacked her home and stole numerous from her and her family members.

“They took jewelry,” she said. “They took a camera. They took iPods.”

Edwards said they also took money that her teenage grandsons saved up to buy Christmas gifts. Edwards said a bag that was taken was found in a house a few doors away with some of the stolen items inside.

A person who lives in the home was arrested. We tried to get some answers from the people who live in the house.

“Can you say anything to your neighbors?” asked CBS4’s Carey Codd. “They’re very concerned.”

“We don’t want to talk,” said a woman inside the house.

A man outside the house, who said he lives there, also had little to say.

“A lot of your neighbors are very upset,” said Codd.

“I’m upset, too, cuz they’re upset,” the man said.

At a neighborhood watch meeting Thursday, Fort Lauderdale Police and residents said there is a problem with juveniles committing crimes in the neighborhood.

Police promised help.

“This is an area that needs resources and you will be getting them,” Ft. Lauderdale Police Captain Luis Alvarez told the group.

Retired Broward Sheriff’s deputy Harriet Gregory has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. She said twice in the last few weeks thieves have broken into her home through a window. Gregory said nothing was stolen because her alarm company warned her in time and she was able to return home before the burglars got away with anything.

However, Gregory said she sleeps with a gun and she’s not afraid to use it.

“If they come in, it’s gonna be on and I don’t want to do that,” she said.

The calm of this neighborhood where people have know each other for decades has been replaced by fear. Bennie Edwards is worried she’ll come home one night and the burglars will again be inside her house.

“I’m suffering right now from anxiety,” Edwards said. “I’m afraid to leave home because the same thing might happen when I return home.”


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