Key West cops call community meeting to address burglaries

Some residents of the close-knit Old Town neighborhood surrounding the Key West Cemetery are on edge as they believe some recent burglaries in the area are connected and the work of one person.

But city police haven't identified a discernable pattern or piece of evidence that suggests a single culprit, department spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

"The assumption that it's one suspect is made by some of the residents," she said, adding, "But I think [detectives] are open to anything. They don't have a suspect."

To address community concern, which has been circulating through a Facebook group page and an online petition, Police Chief Donie Lee has called a meeting to address the issue for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the city Ferry Terminal, 100 Grinnell St.

Crean said Lee and detectives will be on hand to answer questions and see "what they can find out from the community."

She also said that a statistical breakdown of the burglaries being attributed to the so-called "cemetery thief" isn't possible, as there's not a fixed area or start date to look at.

But she did say police have increased patrols, including with plainclothes detectives, in the area.

"I think there's a real level of concern," Olivia Street resident Rick Boettger, a reported victim, said.

"My concern as a three-time victim is that while the first two times I had a door open, the third time it was through locked doors," he said. "I had to harden my house. My wife still has nightmares about having somebody in the house."

On Oct. 17 Boettger called police when he woke up and discovered $300 missing from his wallet. He told them the same thing happened the previous night, Oct. 16. Boettger called again on Oct. 26 after he woke up to find $150 and an Apple iPad gone.

"What we've lost in Key West is not just our money and our electronics but we've lost this wonderful feeling of safety and security," Boettger said.

On June 16, artist John Martini, who lives on Galveston Lane, reported an overnight theft through an open back door that cost him and his house guests around $800 in cash. Martini had previously reported two similar burglaries, one in December 2011 and another in December 2012.

His guest Darene Cahill told police in June that "for the past three or four months she has been noticing smaller amounts of cash missing, but wasn't sure they were due to burglaries until today's incident," according to a report prepared by Officer Jeffrey Williamson.

Crean urged residents to keep their doors and windows locked and said, "I've had several people tell me that they saw someone in a neighbor's yard trying to get in and just [ran] them off without calling the police. If they see someone breaking into a neighbor's house, call the police."