A suspected group of burglars sporting posh attire to blend in to Winter Park’s affluent neighborhoods has either stopped breaking into homes or fallen under the radar, according to the Winter Park Police Department.
“I’m extremely pleased that our crime rates have gone down,” said Sgt. Jamie Loomis, public information officer for the Winter Park Police Department. “We have worked extremely hard to thwart the efforts of these criminals.”
Since the trend gained public attention in April, police have been warning residents to be on the lookout for suspicious people dressed in business attire or medical scrubs in their neighborhoods – a new approach used by burglars to stay unnoticed.
The city saw a peak this year in reported forcible burglaries from February to May, with many witnesses reportedly seeing individuals that matched the description. The four-month span saw an average of 8.75 burglaries a month, and added up to 35 reported burglaries.
But over the past two months, only eight burglaries have been reported, with none of them showing any signs of the potential suspects in disguise.
“If we have a rash of burglaries, it stops either because the suspects get arrested, they move on because they’ve already cleaned out that neighborhood, or it’s still the same people but they’ve changed their tactics on how they do it, and so we don’t connect them with previous trends,” Loomis said.
Sightings of luxury cars near the crime scenes had also trended along with the reports of suspicious people in business attire. Burglars rent Cadillac Escalades, BMWs and Mini Coopers to further blend in with the affluent areas that they steal from.
One sighting of a black Cadillac Escalade by a witness came in the wake of two burglaries within a block of each other on Dale Avenue and Woodland Avenue last April.
A similar crime also took place in Belle Isle, with a witness reporting they saw a suspicious man in medical scrubs.
“If they know that this is a traditionally senior citizen neighborhood, and they sit and watch it for a little while and they see health care givers coming in and out, then it would be a smart burglar who says ‘Hey, if I just dress like a medical person, nobody is going to think I look out of place,’” Loomis said.
“They can try to figure out the best plan and the best way to make sure that they commit their crime.”
Loomis reported that arrests have been made in connection with some of the burglaries from earlier this year, but that none of the cases can be attributed to the burglars dressed in business and medical attire.
Other Winter Park Police statistics show that burglaries are down 42.9 percent when comparing the first six months of 2013 to the first six months of 2012 – a result of spreading the word throughout the community and the visible presence of Winter Park’s police officers, said Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railey.
“When the police turn the heat up, people who commit crimes of opportunity elect to commit them elsewhere,” Railey said. “It doesn’t matter how they’re dressed, they’ll commit them elsewhere.”
The Winter Park Police Department has yet to catch one of the burglars matching the clothing description, but continues to keep residents informed to protect their neighborhoods, arming them with helpful hints and education on what attracts burglars.
But Loomis stressed that the best way to prevent burglaries is to simply look out for one another.
“If you have a neighbor that’s gone for the summer and you see newspapers piling up, that’s an invitation to a burglar to come into your neighborhood and hit that house,” Loomis said. “Pick up the newspapers.”
“It’s about being a good neighbor, taking care of each other and keeping your neighborhood as uninviting as possible to a burglar.”
It’s a natural reaction to excellent police work.