Miramar police warn of driveway robberies
By Macollvie Jean-François | South Florida Sun-Sentinel 10:39 PM EDT, May 1, 2008
MIRAMAR - Reports of thieves ambushing people at their front doors have prompted police to start warning residents about the crimes called "driveway robberies."
Communities in southwest Miramar have been hit the hardest since the spree began in February, but no development is off-limits, police said.
"We believe the suspects are randomly choosing their victims," police spokesman Bill Robertson said. "They're targeting driveways because that's where people let their guard down, because they're in their comfort zone."
That space between doorway and car door turned dangerous for at least a dozen Miramar residents, according to police data provided Thursday. In the 14 incidents reported as of Thursday, the robbers have struck as residents prepared to leave for work, between 5:30 and 7 a.m., and when residents were returning home, between 10 and 11:30 p.m.
Residents of the Estates of Lake Miramar, Fairway, Foxcroft, Huntington, Meadows of Miramar, Monarch Lakes, Murano and Villages of Renaissance have been victimized, police said.
Pembroke Pines police said two driveway robberies were reported in their city, in the Lakeside Key development, in February and March.
Usually, two or three robbers drive into a development looking for potential victims, Robertson said. They generally wear masks and, in several cases, point guns.
People in driveways are attractive targets because they tend to be carrying wallets, personal identification, laptops, phones and other valuables, Robertson said.
Detectives do not yet know if one group is responsible for the spree, or if there are multiple rings.
While driveway robberies may have occurred sporadically in the past, this is the first time there have been so many in such a short period of time, Robertson said.
Carlos Montoya, 36, who was robbed while leaving his home in February, said the robberies have taken a toll on his Melrose Cove community in Monarch Lakes.
"There used to be people out jogging. Now you don't see that anymore," Montoya said. "It's scary."
Montoya said he was leaving his home about 6:45 a.m. when a gunman wearing a ski mask pulled in front of his driveway. Before Montoya could leave, the driver pulled up, pointed a gun at him and demanded his money and cell phone. He was robbed but unhurt.
On April 22, a group robbed another man on Montoya's block, police said. This time they beat the resident and sped away.
That robbery and two others like it within a half-hour, in the same area near Flamingo Road, prompted police to begin informing the public last week, Robertson said. Police began distributing fliers, officers visited homeowners' association and community watch group meetings, and the department stepped up patrols, he said.
Detectives are also working with Hollywood police to determine whether two people arrested there were involved in the driveway robberies, Robertson said.
He said police did not publicize the robberies sooner because detectives had a few possible suspects they did not want to scare off.
That's small comfort to the victims and their neighbors.
"If it's happening almost every other night, why don't they tell everybody?" Montoya asked. "Are they waiting for somebody to get killed?"
Dafnie Lindor, 32, whose young daughter saw the robbers speeding away from Montoya's block, said she is worried an unintended victim might get hurt.
"It frightens me, because you never know when you're next," Lindor said.
"This is supposed to be a community of families here. It makes you feel like somebody's watching you. It's uncomfortable."
Macollvie Jean-François can be reached at mjfrancois @sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7922.