PINELLAS PARK, Florida - Pinellas County sheriff's deputies are distributing flyers to residents living on and around 42nd Street North in Pinellas Park. The poster warns of criminals targeting cars in the area, including a vehicle of one of their neighbors, an officer himself.
"The deputy came out, he realized numerous items were missing from the trunk of his vehicle," said Pinellas Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.
The sheriff's office says someone broke into the trunk of the deputy's unmarked cruiser, cleaning out nearly all his equipment, including a Rock River Arms Rifle, Glock model pistol, tactical flashlight, Bench Mark knife, handcuffs, expandable baton, magazines, even the deputy's badge and two sets of agency credentials.
"Certainly the concern is that there is someone out there with agency weapons," said Barreda. "There is the concern they could be posing as a deputy, as an officer."
Neighbors can't believe how brazen the criminals in their neighborhood have become.
"Once somebody opened it up and saw those things, to actually take them ... they certainly had to be very bold to take it," said neighbor Ed Benesh. "It causes me to think, if they're going to take his things, they're definitely going to take mine."
Area residents say car break-ins are getting to be almost routine in the area.
"My next-door neighbor, last week she went to start up her car and there was someone sleeping in the back seat," said Alan Cavanagh, who also lives along 42nd Street.
"We've had times when people have come through and taken change out of ash trays," said Benesh, recalling an incident in his driveway. "I mean, we've come out and found our car door jimmied opened."
But now many worry the bad guys are getting even bolder.
"Obviously, the person is a criminal," said Benesh. "Obviously, they possess some type of tools for breaking and entering, so now you have these more powerful more dangerous tools in their hands. At what point are they going to elevate their criminal behavior?"
Anyone with information that may assist detectives in identifying a suspect or suspects is asked to contact Detective Chris Parkins of the Burglary and Pawn Unit at(727) 582-6200; or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.