• Deputies say alert citizens helping to thwart burglars in Orange County


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County sheriff's deputies said watchful neighbors have been key eyewitnesses in recent home burglaries.
    On Monday a resident in east Orange County took pictures of a car that sped away after a group of men ransacked a home in the Arbor Woods subdivision. On Tuesday a resident in a different neighborhood helped catch some suspected burglars in an unrelated case.
    Sheriff's officials said residents are doing the right thing to help stop burglaries.
    "We really want to put an end to this," said Jane Watrel, with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

    While Channel 9's Kristyn Caddell was talking to Watrel about a rash of home burglaries there was another one happening at the Park 9 Apartments in east Orange County. Two burglars smashed their way into a unit.
    "I was sitting inside and I just heard a big bam," said apartment resident Alice Hawkins, who lived close by the apartment the burglars had entered.
    Hawkins said she didn't ignore the sound. She called 911 and deputies caught the suspected burglars, who they said were about to get away with a car trunk full of stolen goods.
    "People work too hard for their stuff, so I need to make sure my neighbors are OK. So that's what I did. I called," said Hawkins.  
    Hawkins is just one of a growing number of observant residents that sheriff's officials said are helping by calling and taking photos.
    "In one case, a resident went out on the porch, heard some noise, saw someone taking a TV and heard someone yell go and quickly got a photo," said Watrel. "No one can recall a time when people are snapping photos and sending them to us."
    Investigators said to snap photos and ask questions later because that kind of evidence is invaluable and is helping them with what they describe as a chronic burglary problem in East Orange County.
    "It's personal. They come into your home, they take prized possessions and we really want to catch these guys," said Watrel.

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    Deputies say alert citizens helping to thwart burglars in Orange County