Arrests Lead To Return Of Items For Some Auto Burglary Victims

By Tamas Mondovics

“I wouldn’t say that there is an increase of crime in the area, being a nice community, this area is definitely a target,” said Hillsborough County District 4 Property Crime Detective James C. Howell.Howell’s comments were the result of a recent series of vehicle burglaries, or so-called “car hopping,” in FishHawk Ranch and the subsequent arrest of four individuals connected to the crimes.Car hopping is when thieves, in an organized fashion, pull on the car’s door handles and take all valuables from the vehicles that were not locked.Howell explained that upon finding an unlocked vehicle, the burglars rummage through glove boxes and center consoles, quickly grabbing whatever valuables they can find before moving onto the next car.  Items like GPS units, iPods, cameras, laptops and money are taken and handed over to another person who walks or drives down the middle of the street to keep the thieves moving. According to the sheriff’s office, car hopping usually occurs between 12 Midnight and 6 a.m.“It is all about the quantity,” Howell said. “With this genre of crime, it is amazing how much damage can be done in just a short period of time.” While the problem is widespread, including a number of communities in Riverview as well as in Bloomingdale, according to local law enforcement, the burglars focus on neighborhoods and apartment complexes where there are many cars parked on the street.Howell said that the four men arrested in connection with the crime entered the FishHawk Bridgewater community and hit approximately a dozen vehicles, stealing watches, tools and a Sirius satellite radio, as well as a wallet containing almost $2,200.The following night, two men entered FishHawk’s Skylark Crest, Tanager Ridge and Gannet Glade neighborhoods and hit an estimated 40 to 60 cars. Later that day, deputies arrested Jeremy Dennard, 19, Harry Noriega, 21, and Charles Gachot, 19, charging them with grand theft, petty theft and burglary in connection with the FishHawk Ranch car hopping.Anthony Gibson, 31, was later  arrested in connection with the same crime. While many of the items have been successfully recovered and returned to their rightful owners, Howell said that many more items are still unclaimed.To avoid being a victim, Howell encouraged residents to do the basics, which include locking the car, not leaving anything valuable in sight and, if available, parking in the garage.“You might have to tidy up the garage a bit, but it is worth it,” Howell said.Upon witnessing a car hopping, residents are asked to call 911 to relay the crime in progress. Even if you’re not sure, Howell said it is a good idea to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-0455. Those who have lost items may identify them by first calling Howell at 247-0478.

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