The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is urging Upper Keys merchants to secure their businesses and locate computers inconspicuously following a spate of recent burglaries in Islamorada believed to be related.
"We need to try to nip this in the bud," said Capt. Corey Bryan, who heads the sheriff's Islamorada sector.
Sometime last weekend, a burglar broke into Edward Jones Investment and its next-door neighbor, Island Flash Bead Design, both at Mile Marker 88 on Plantation Key. A projector and a screen were stolen from the Edward Jones conference room, according to an incident report, and a desktop computer was taken from Island Flash.
Those burglaries came slightly less than a month after a break-in at the nearby Miss Monroe Boutique, Mile Marker 88.5, where an attempt to steal a computer was foiled by the machine's security wire. That night, March 24, the security camera at Miss Monroe captured a stocky and slightly pudgy middle-aged white man as he tried to steal the computer.
A fourth burglary, of Blue Water Weddings in the Galleria shopping plaza, Mile Marker 81 on Upper Matecumbe Key, is also believed to be related. The burglar reportedly stole a Macintosh computer during that incident, which occurred sometime between March 2 and 4.
All of the break-ins involved forced entry, according to the Sheriff's Office reports, and in each case the targeted electronics were easily visible from outside.
Bryan said an anomaly about the crimes is that the perpetrator didn't go after anything but the computers, and in the case of Edward Jones, the projector equipment. In some cases, he added, cash was on hand at the stores but left untouched.
In an effort to put merchants on the alert, Bryan requested that the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce spread the word about the burglaries. A letter from the chamber went out to members Wednesday evening.
Bryan said that investigators have a couple leads they are chasing. But in the meantime, he wanted to forestall more break-ins.
"I just want to make sure that we are being vigilant, that we're not just sitting back and investigating. Let's be proactive and do what we can," he said.