- July 31, 2013
As the Horizon West area continues to grow, so do all other aspects of development — including traffic congestion, school overcrowding and, yes, crime.
Most recently, about 20 vehicles on April 12 were burglarized at The Retreat at Windermere apartment complex. Orange County Sheriff’s Office still is searching for the suspect(s) responsible for the crimes.
Adam Michael Gordon was among the victims.
“Early this morning, my car (along with approximately 20 others) was broken into in The Retreat at Windermere apartment complex,” Gordon wrote on Facebook. “Multiple personal belongings were stolen from inside.”
This most recent rash of vehicle burglaries is just the latest in a growing trend. According to Sheriff’s Office data, 79 car burglaries were reported from January to April 2021 in Horizon West. So far this year, the Sheriff’s Office has responded to 42.
FORAGING FOR FIREARMS
According to Sheriff’s Office officials, vehicle burglaries are most commonly committed by teens looking for guns.
More than 700 guns were reported stolen in car burglaries throughout Orange County in 2020 and 2021.
“We could cripple the gun trade among these young people if gun owners would stop leaving unsecured firearms in their vehicles,” officials said. “We need responsible gun owners to do the right thing.”
Hamlin resident Bryan May, a security consultant and owner of American Home Security, said he has seen the crime associated with the Horizon West area’s growth and exposure.
May said the area currently has a large influx of guns; people move from a multitude of different areas and feel the need to protect themselves in an unfamiliar community.
He said teens cannot buy guns easily and do not get prosecuted the same way when they are first-time committers. That entices them to steal guns from vehicles.
“It’s the same thing that always happens,” May said. “It’s the times, and people are desperate in these times. I’ve noticed it’s mostly the perimeter communities that deal with the most crime. Perimeter homes and lots are an easy in and an easy out for criminals.”
May said criminals will scout the location, usually close to where they live as they have to know the area, and observe.
Common mistakes he has noticed in the community are garage doors being left open or unlocked, and leaving valuable items visible in the car. However, the biggest mistake: People don’t use the security devices they have.
“People typically don’t turn on their security systems at night — only when they’re out of town — because they think they’re home, so nothing will happen,” May said. “More than 90% of calls I receive for installations are after a break-in takes place. After six months or so, if nothing happens, the people often get bored or think the security is not working or not worth it, so they turn it off.”
Another common misconception May sees is the increased popularity in doorbell cameras as a way to stop crimes.
“A criminal does not care if you take their picture, and it does not alert authorities,” he said.
Sasha Ordway’s car was burglarized less than two weeks ago. She went to Independence Elementary School to pick up her daughter and left the car parked about 30 to 50 feet away from the bench on which she sat to wait for her child.
Less than 10 minutes later, her car was burglarized.
When she got back and was unable to start the car, she realized something was wrong.
Ordway had left her key fob, wallet and purse in the car. Everything was gone.
She said a witness had seen two teenagers approach on bikes and enter into the car wearing black hoodies and masks.
Although Ordway filed a report, she said she has not heard anything back in over a week. She said she is afraid because the suspects have her key and address.
“I was just amazed at the time that it happened in,” she said. “It’s such a busy area. People saw them, and there were lots of cars around. They had no shame.”
Many other reports have been noted on social media including NextDoor.
Last week, Alexander Shoda said his car and at least four others were broken into at Lake Butler.
Andrea Thomad said her car was one of the others and that the suspects tried the passenger front window first, and having no success, then smashed the rear window.
To combat the car burglaries, the Sheriff’s Office recommends a series of tips for prevention.
Remove keys, guns and other valuable items from the vehicle and store them in a safe and secure location. Parking in a well-lit area, locking doors and arming necessary security systems can also help to lower the risk of a vehicle crime.
May said the smartest and safest thing to do when it comes to a living area is to have motion-activated flood lights. He said he suggests spending the extra money on a strobe light to blink when an alarm goes off, allowing emergency responses to be quicker when they can easily spot the house, alerting neighbors’ attention and possibly scaring off the intruder.
“If growth stops and we are community to community with no gray zone in-between, I think the crime will decrease,” May said. “In the meantime, I think it’s necessary to take these extra precautionary steps so we can keep our family and friends safe.”
Report a break-in to the OCSO: Click here or call (407) 836-4357
For security consultations or questions in the area, email Bryan May: [email protected]