Friday afternoon, the Gainesville Police Department announced an investigation into rising numbers of burglaries throughout the city.
Since the beginning of 2016, a roughly three-month span, 280 burglaries were reported to the department, a 50 percent increase from the same time last year, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.
— Gainesville Police (@GainesvillePD) March 18, 2016
Specifically, car burglaries are escalating, he said.
In the past month, GPD investigated 59 car burglaries, 70 percent of which involved cars left unlocked.
“We have officers that are out there 24-7 patrolling, looking for these bad guys, but we can’t be everywhere at once,” Tobias said. “And if you leave your vehicle unlocked you are just asking for someone to break into your car.”
The hardest hit area in Gainesville, Tobias said, has been the Northwood Pines neighborhood just off Northwest 34th Street.
Officers there have been conducting traffic stops, but instead of citations, they have been handing out safety fliers to area residents.
The problem has affected the entire city, which eventually takes a toll on GPD’s patrol units, Tobias said.
“We identify some people and then right across town there’s another group of people doing it,” he said. “So our resources are getting spread all over the city.”
Recently, police arrested a group of five young men, the oldest being 17 years old, that authorities have linked to 15 total burglaries, Tobias said.
Police believe that groups of juvenile criminals like this one – that use crime proceeds to buy drugs – may be responsible for the spike in burglaries.
In coordination with the Gainesville Alachua County Drug Task Force, officers have served search warrants and identified several persons of interest.
The GPD Special Operations Unit is offering rewards to any information that leads to arrest or prosecution.