PSL cops driven to solve rash of smash-and-grabs

Vehicles throughout the City of Port St. Lucie are prime targets for smash-and-grab burglars, but none more so than those parked in St. Lucie West and Tradition, according to numbers released by the Port St. Lucie Police Department.

Between Jan. 1, 2016, and June 11, 2018, there have been more than 100 smash-and-grab vehicle burglaries – cases when perpetrators break vehicles’ windows and help themselves to anything they find inside.

“It is very frustrating,” Det. Chris Cappozi told St. Lucie Voice. “We take pride in our work.”

The detective has been named the department’s lead investigator on the cases and encourages the public to step forward with any information that might lead to suspect information or arrests.

The department recently released suspect information for three separate cases. In one case, the suspects are described as two black males in a black Nissan Juke.

Another case, which occurred at the CVS in the 1300 block of SW St. Lucie West Boulevard on May 11, involves a suspect described as a black female.

And one other case, at LA Fitness located at 10624 SW Village Parkway on May 25, has three suspects described as black males in their 20s with a burgundy four-door Honda Civic. “It’s a lengthy investigation for sure,” Cappozi said, adding that he believes the suspects are from “down south” – in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale region, or west from Orlando.

The suspects leave behind little evidence, he said, explaining that they haven’t left fingerprints and usually avoid security cameras. One smash-grab that was caught on camera happened in less than 20 seconds, Cappozi said. “It’s a big game of cat and mouse.”

The police department patrols public parking lots as best it can, but there aren’t enough cruisers available to be everywhere all at once. “They know we’re onto them,” Cappozi said, and they move on to another parking lot.

The few suspects police are able to collar seem aware of others committing the same kinds of burglaries but don’t actually seem to know each other, he said, which leads investigators to believe the main culprits are part of a large-scale burglary ring.

Cappozi said residents need to be mindful of their surroundings when pulling into parking lots. Keep an eye out for people sitting in vehicles scanning the lot, or those who drive slowly from aisle to aisle, also scanning the lot.

Suspects are watching for drivers to move items to trunks or back seats or into center consoles. If you can, remove all valuables from sight well before parking – or, better yet, remove them from the vehicle.

Cappozi said the bulk of the vehicle burglaries occur between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and people are urged to bear that in mind when going shopping, hitting the gym or going out to dinner.

Also, it is best to park in a well-lit area where security cameras can help serve as a deterrent to would-be burglars.

“We do care,” the detective said. “We want to solve these crimes.”  

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