Broward County

A fumigation tent went up. Cops say a burglar went in anyway

Some of the $300,000 of allegedly stolen goods Hollywood cops recovered from Derek Bell
Some of the $300,000 of allegedly stolen goods Hollywood cops recovered from Derek Bell

Put this on the list of places best to skip if you’re thinking about breaking in: homes tented for fumigation.

But that didn’t stop one burglary suspect, according to Hollywood police. When the residents entered their home after tenting, they discovered the break-in.

Hollywood cops say they recovered $300,000 worth of loot — guns, knives, sneakers, even a Miami Dolphins bag — from the Miramar home of Derek Bell’s girlfriend and his storage unit last week. They believe Bell stole the property by hitting several homes tented by pest-control companies.

The complaint affidavit for Bell’s arrest says 30 Hollywood homes have been hit in the bug burglaries, which apparently are common in the area — victims from Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale and Miramar have claimed property. Police ask anyone who thinks they’ve been a victim to call Hollywood police at 954-967-4636.

According to the affidavit, the wave of burglaries prompted Hollywood police to stake out a tented home in the 4000 block of Lincoln Street. Police say Bell was spotted approaching the house on foot while a partner waited in a nearby silver Dodge sedan. Upon spotting police, Bell ran while the car took off.

The car registration directed police toward Miramar, where they say they next saw the car racing up Southwest 64th Avenue. A chase ended at the home of Bell’s girlfriend, the car’s registered owner. A search of the house turned up boxes, bags and pillowcases of jewelry, sports memorabilia, shoes and other suspected stolen goods, according to police.

A pest control company supervisor said thieves usually slash their way through the tarps, thinking holes allow the safe dissipation of the gas inside. “Those people are risking their lives,” he said.

And some don’t live to tell about it. In 1996, a burglar in West Palm Beach ignored the “Deadly Poison” signs at a home and tried to make off with an air conditioner. Neighbors heard someone screaming in agony. Cops found the burglary suspect writhing on the porch and he died in the hospital.

Bell is in Broward County Jail on $190,750 bond on 32 charges, including several burglary, grand theft and probation violations. He’s two years and two months into a three-year probation for home burglary and driving without a license. Bell did 21 months prison time from 1996-98 for robbery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a weapon.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal