Call it the case of the Senior Citizen Burglar but this isn’t a remake of the old George Burns crime caper, Going in Style.
For some residents in Coral Gables, there’s nothing funny about this situation.
A man, who appears to be in his 60s, wearing a nondescript light-colored cap, collared shirt and walking with a cane, is seen on surveillance videoat an apartment complex in Coral Gables as he peers through the front glass doors.
The Coral Gables Police Department released the images this week in the hopes of catching the man who is suspected of being involved in a number of apartment burglaries in multi-story buildings in the city. Officers believe he gains entry to the apartments and, once inside, removes jewelry and other items.
In February, Andrea Bonggi, 40, came home from her administrative job in Doral and noticed her door frame had been pried. She peered inside briefly, flicked on the lights, and called police. “They were there in three minutes, so that was fantastic service from the police,” Bonggi said. “But this man was captured on camera on several buildings.”
Her loss: About $10,000 in jewelry, a Rolex watch, carry-on baggage, sweaters, mini skirts and a coat, plus $1,500 in damages to her front door.
The thief also used a tool, perhaps a crowbar, to break into another fifth floor apartment but that unit was vacant.
Bonggi believes the burglar knew the pass code to the Madeira Avenue building after she saw the surveillance video.
“You can see him put the pass code in, and then you can see him with baggage inside, and he had tools to open the front door,” she said Wednesday.
Bonggi, a pharmacist in her native Argentina, felt her sense of security was also taken with her property.
“ Now, I feel good, but after the situation, I was very worried and afraid. I had to put more security at the door.”
Along with the new door brace, she also changed her scheduled so as to avoid coming home after dark and she’s engaging more with her neighbors as they watch out for one another.
Crime, and the perception that Coral Gables is awash in a crime wave, has persisted for months.
“I want to be clear, there is no crime wave in Coral Gables; this is a very safe city,” said acting police chief Scott Masington in an email to The Miami Herald Tuesday. “Although Coral Gables is very safe and we’d like to eliminate all crimes, that’s not realistic anywhere.”
During the recent mayoral race that pit Ralph Cabrera, who served 12 years as a Gables commissioner, against incumbent Mayor Jim Cason, crime became one of the focal points of the race. Cabrera ran a Spanish radio ad that said crime was on the rise in Coral Gables and compared unfavorably with that of Opa-locka, a much smaller city of about 16,000 residents that had 1,537 total offenses in 2012, including two murders.
These numbers compared to 1,966 incidents in the Gables, with no murders. But those statistics were over a 19-month period from May 2011 through February 2013, compared to 12 months for Opa-locka. Coral Gables also is three times the size of Opa-locka, with about 48,000 residents. Cason, who was handily re-elected, cited figures from the Coral Gables Police Department that noted crime had declined by 1.5 percent in 2012.
From January to April 2013, the police department recorded 98 burglaries, compared with 123 for the same period a year ago.