Concern over auto burglary prevention program

Posted at 4:37 PM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 16:37:32-04

Concern is growing over an auto burglary prevention program run by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies, who see unlocked vehicles, are opening the doors and leaving a pamphlet on the driver's seat reminding the driver to lock their car doors.  Then, deputies are locking the doors from the inside.

According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the program has been up and running for six years and aims to cut down on auto burglaries.

"We started the program about six years ago because we saw such a high number of car burglaries where the vehicles were unlocked," said Gualtieri.

Wednesday morning, Adam Bocanegro walked out of his Seminole apartment and found the burglary prevention pamphlet in his car.

It had been placed there overnight.

"I felt violated like somebody was in my vehicle without my permission. without my consent," explained Bocanegro.

Bocanegro showed up at the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday afternoon to complain.  He claims deputies told him to file a complaint through their office.

"They don't go into the car, they don't search, they don't do anything, they don't look for anything," Gualtieri explained.

Gualtieri says you have to trust that those charged with protecting and serving you are doing just that.

Bocanegro doesn't.

"Police women and police men are humans and and citizens of the society, just like me and you, they rape murder and steal," Bocanegro said.

Gualtieri says his deputies are in the right.

 "We are not doing anything wrong, this is well intended, we are trying to do the right thing," Gualtieri said.

According to Gualtieri, this crime prevention method came into play because other methods of reminding people to lock their car doors was failing like crime boards and bulletins.

He explained deputies cannot leave the pamphlets on car windows because that could direct thieves to cars.

According to Cooley Law School Professor Jeff Swartz., what deputies are doing is technically misdemeanor trespassing.

"You cannot break the law in order to avoid others breaking the law," said Swartz.

The Sheriff says the program has been successful and is progressing despite burglaries of unlocked cars rising.

"In six years, we haven't had one allegation of abuse.  We haven't had one allegation of anything being done improperly.  Not one allegation of an improper case being made or any cases made for that matter," Gualtieri said.

Bocanegro says plans on following through with his complaint.

"I am not arguing the concept at all but I am arguing procedure," Bocanegro said.