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Burglaries have Central Beach on alert
BY LISA ZAHNER - STAFF WRITER (Week of July 16, 2009)

Burglars have pilfered tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry from five barrier island homes since Memorial Day, and police have no suspects and very little to go on.

Four of the homes were located in the Central Beach area and one – the home of television personality Dr. Josephina Monesterio and husband Dr. Danny Quaranto – was burgled this past weekend just across the Vero Beach line in Indian River Shores.

Officer John Morrison of the Vero Beach Police Department has been working with the more than 100 active members of the Central Beach Neighborhood Watch group to try to solve these crimes and to prevent further ones from happening in their territory, which runs from 17th Street to the Indian River Shores town border.

He said the four Central Beach burglaries all took place at homes that had a couple of important things in common. “In the homes that have been burglarized, there have been no dogs and no active alarm systems,” he said. The burglaries all appear to have taken place in the early evening while residents were away from the house for dinner and other outings. Only jewelry was taken, though each of the homes had expensive electronics and other valuables.

The most recent Indian River Shores burglary seems to be similar, as the residents have no dog or alarm system and only jewelry was taken.

“I guess they thought because I am on TV that I would have a lot of expensive jewelry, but the joke is on them, because they only got a couple of rings and some costume jewelry,” said Monesterio, who appears on Vero Beach’s local channel 10. In her opinion, the $3,000 in jewelry the burglars got was less consequential than the mess they created by kicking in her door and ransacking her bedroom. She entered the home through the garage after being away for two days and only discovered the break-in when she saw the front door slightly ajar and the broken pieces on the floor, then she discovered the jewelry was missing.

She said she had been wearing her one expensive piece of jewelry, a watch, but had left a few rings at home because she had been away at a bodybuilding competition. Monesterio felt she had left the home was fairly safe as it was completely locked up with lights on inside and outside the house.

It is not known when the Seminole Lane burglary took place as Monesterio had been gone for two days, but the Central Beach burglaries took place in the early evening while residents were away from the house for dinner and other outings.

Only jewelry was taken, though each of the homes had expensive electronics and other valuables. At some of the homes, a pillowcase had been stolen, possibly as a bag for toting the jewelry.

Morrison said he’s not surprised that only jewelry has been taken as it is not only very portable, but easy to sell, either to traveling gold-buying operations or to mail-away jewelry buying companies. None of the stolen jewelry has surfaced at local pawn shops, whom Morrison said have been alerted and are required to notify law enforcement if the hot goods show up.

He has the addresses written on a board with the dates of the crimes: February 14, an earlier but similar burglary which may have been a test at 661 Date Palm Rd.; May 26, burglary at 764 Banyan Rd.; May 26, burglary at 864 Banyan Rd.; June 8, burglary at 555 Greytwig Rd.; June 22, burglary at 3266 Indian River Drive East.

The timing of the burglaries is also interesting, spaced nearly every two weeks since Memorial Day. Other crime in the area happened on an off-week, with an auto theft on June 27 and a car burglary on June 28, both on Fiddlewood Lane, where Rosemary White lives. White heads up the South Beach Neighborhood Watch group and has been working to mobilize her neighbors to thwart this threat to their peaceful existence. The group met Tuesday at Christ by the Sea United Methodist Church to strategize with Morrison.

“I know they are still in the area, they’re walking up on people’s property,” White said.

She said she recently had a very persistent man knock at her door, offering a business card of a bogus cleaning service. She answered the door to get a look at him, then noticed that he went on to other homes where there was no one home.

“If you don’t answer the front door, they go around the back of the house to the back door and that’s how I think they find out if there is a dog,” she said.

Morrison said the homeowners have been interviewed as to which service people have been in their homes regularly or recently, and he’s found no commonalities that would lead to a suspect or suspects.

He’s received a dozen or more tips from neighbors and urged people to keep calling if they see or hear something that might lead to an arrest.

When there is a burglary or something suspicious reported, White begins a phone and email chain that alerts the defacto block captains of the group, who then spread the word to their neighbors.

White walks the neighborhood every day and she encourages her fellow barrier island residents to “be a good neighbor” by watching out for each other and by keeping up their property.

“We’re not going to walk in fear, but we’re going to move together as a community,” White said. “We’re just going to stand tough and it’s going to come to an end.”