Thieves targeting 'snowbird'-owned homes in Marion County

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. —

A Marion County community said thieves are preying on the homes of "snowbirds" in their neighborhood.

Deputies said 11 homes in Fort McCoy have been hit, including the home of a wounded war veteran.

Channel 9's Myrt Price spoke with some residents in the neighborhood, who said they're now keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.

WFTV found deputies are even running into trouble letting homeowners know they've been victimized.

Resident Dorman Burnside pointed out several locations that have been hit by burglars recently.

"One there, one there, one there, one here, and you go on the other street and there is one right here, one here, one here, one here," he said pointed to the targeted homes.

Burnside said he's upset thieves have gone after his neighbors, especially one who is an Iraq War vet who was injured by a roadside bomb.

"They stole the washing machines, dryers, televisions, 12 bikes and a living room set," said Burnside.

Deputies said the thieves also stole the victim's guns, but they're unsure how many weapons are now on the street.

One of the things that's slowing down the investigation is that deputies haven't been able to talk to many of the victims, because most live in Canada and come to central Florida during the winter months.

Some homeowners don't even know they've been hit, and deputies aren't sure what all has been stolen.

"When you don't even know what was stolen or what you're looking for, it's a needle in a haystack," said Capt. James Pogue, of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Neighbors are so concerned about the thieves that they've started taking their own precautions.

"When I go to bed at night I got my shotgun loaded, and if I hear a noise, I'm liable to blow the door down before I open it.  Just get scared at night," said Burnside.

In the meantime, deputies are searching property records in hopes of finding the owners of the burglarized homes.