By Rachel Brown Hackney
After stepping to the front of the room on Dec. 5, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, told Siesta Key Association (SKA) members, “As you can imagine, this past month has been pretty busy, with the holidays coming up.”
The Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Festival, the Turkey Trot and the Light Up Siesta Key activities all went well, he reported. Next up was the Siesta Key Beach Seafood & Music Festival and then the Santa Stumble, Smith continued. (Both the Turkey Trot and the Santa Stumble are pub crawls organized by the Daiquiri Deck, the Siesta Key Oyster Bar and Gilligan’s Island Bar and Grill. The Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB) hosts the Santa Stumble, which will mark its 11th anniversary this year, according to information published by the Best Western Plus Siesta Key Gateway Hotel on its website.)
“A lot of people are coming to the Key,” Smith emphasized.
As for the November crime statistics: Smith said the Sheriff’s Office received about 300 calls for service in that month. “We’re still around our 4% [mark],” for the Part 1 crimes, he added, referring to the more serious incidents, as classified by the FBI. “We usually stick around 4% out here on the Key.”
He then noted the following Part 1 incidents: one aggravated assault; one auto theft; one residential burglary; one vehicle burglary; a couple of thefts; and one robbery.
Explaining the residential burglary, Smith said, “Guy came home and found someone living in his house.” The Sheriff’s Office arrested the allegedly unlawful occupant, who remained in jail as of Dec. 6, Smith added.
In another incident, a purse was stolen during the Turkey Trot, which was held the night before Thanksgiving, he continued. Sheriff’s Office personnel found the purse, he said, and all the contents were returned to the owner; the person chose not to press charges.
Another “smash-and-grab” was reported in November, this one at Beach Access 4, Smith told the audience members. He reminded them that the Sheriff’s Office investigated a number of such incidents in October involving vehicles at Beach Access 8. The perpetrators smash vehicle windows and grab items they believe to be valuable enough to take, he explained last month.
“This looks like it’s a little different” from those in October, Smith pointed out on Dec. 5. (He told the SKA audience last month that the incidents at Access 8 likely were perpetrated by a group out of the Tampa area that targets locations easily reachable from Interstate 75. After they steal items from vehicles, they clear out quickly, making it difficult for the Sheriff’s Office to find them, he pointed out.)
In the Access 4 case, Smith said, the person used a rock to break the window of a vehicle, from which a purse was stolen. A man was arrested “for a very similar burglary off the Key,” Smith continued, “and we think it’s the same guy” who was responsible for the Access 4 case.
After Smith concluded his report, a woman in the audience asked whether golf carts are legal on Siesta roads. She and her husband recently had encountered such a vehicle — without lights — near twilight on Midnight Pass Road, she added.
Golf carts are legal on roads with low speed limits, Smith explained. However, if they are traveling regular roads, they must have lights, license plates and other equipment, just like regular vehicles, he pointed out.
Some roads on the Key have signs posted to warn that low-speed vehicles are not allowed, because those stretches of road have higher speed limits, he added. The popular three-wheel rental vehicles also are prohibited on those roads, he noted.
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