Key West Police Chief Donie Lee assured Old Town residents in a Wednesday meeting that his department is doing everything possible to address a spike in burglaries in the neighborhood surrounding the Key West Cemetery.
Previously, the Police Department hadn't quantified the number of break-ins but at Wednesday's meeting at the city Ferry Terminal, Lee presented stats: 40 burglaries from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15 in the area bounded by Eaton Street, Truman Avenue, Simonton Street and Eisenhower Drive.
Department spokeswoman Alyson Crean said the figure represents a "noticeable spike. We didn't compare it to other parts of the city. There are burglaries that occur all over but this is a spike."
More than 100 people attended the session and victims like Sandra Duffy found her experience with the police lacking. In December Duffy, who lives on Angela Street, slept while someone apparently entered her home and stole her iPhone from a shelf next to her bed.
She told Lee that because Internet-connected devices seem to be a common theft item, "your officers should be better prepared" to use technology like the popular Find My iPhone application to help victims.
Another cemetery-area resident asked Lee how they should react if they encounter a burglar in their home.
"The most important thing to do is call 911," the chief said. "If you can, I think you should retreat. That's a whole debate. It's safer for you. If you can't retreat, you need to do what you have to do to defend yourself. No one has been attacked."
Community Affairs Officer Steve Torrence suggested putting together a neighborhood watch group with an eye on monitoring the area for out-of-character activity like "old fashioned Key West, where you know who was supposed to be there."
Interested residents have started a Facebook page to share information and organize efforts. Crean has started using that social media website, and a more formal e-mail distribution list, to keep residents informed about arrests in the area.
For instance, on Friday she apprised the group that on Thursday around 8 p.m., police arrested 32-year-old James McGruder for trespassing after Officer Kristopher Bouvier saw McGruder crawl under the locked gate at the cemetery, Crean said. A warrant check revealed he was wanted for dealing in stolen property and pawn fraud.
"McGruder said he was a medium and was there just to speak to dead people," Crean said, adding that detectives are investigating whether he's tied to any of the reported burglaries.
"We are completely committed to identifying the person or persons," Lee said. We are doing everything we can do. We really want to take this person off the street."