Police investigate string of smash and grabs in busy parking lots

Thieves smash their way into Clearwater vehicles
Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-25 18:21:48-04

Clearwater police is investigating a string of smash and grab vehicle thefts in the area.

Police say four women had their vehicles broken into on Monday afternoon while parked at the Heritage United Methodist Church in Clearwater.

Victims tell ABC Action News the thief smashed a window to get in and took off with only their purse.

In one case they left behind several cell phones and in another they left behind a laptop.

“It's like they know to target moms that are in a rush to drop off their kids or pick up their kids,” said Janeane Briseno, who works at the church.

Briseno says parents with children who attend a nearby school can park in their lot to pick up kids after school.

She says the lot was full of people that day, but the break-ins happened within minutes, with no one noticing until it was too late.

“You're just gone for a few minutes and it should be safe,” she said.

Police report break-ins in several other locations around Countryside.

At least one other break-in occurred at the Enterprise Dog Park less than a mile from the school among other areas.

Briseno posted signs around her church warning people not to leave valuables behind in cars, even if they are locked.

“It’s like, you know, ‘I’m just going to be gone a second’,” she said, “and it doesn't take very long.”