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Sheriff Enlists Legislative Help To Crack Down On Growing Problem: ‘Pillowcase Burglars’

Martin County Sheriff's Office/Florida House
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder and Representative Charles McBurney (R-Jacksonville)

A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would make it a separate offense for anyone to travel to another county to commit a felony offense, like burglary or trafficking. It sprang out of what some say is a growing problem in several areas of the state: “Pillowcase Burglars.”  

“We have this phenomena here in Martin County, and most counties in the state of Florida have this as well. And, that is we have traveling burglars that have been dubbed ‘the pillowcase burglars’ because they break into houses near interstates and ransack the house for small valuables, such as guns, jewelry, and cash, and put the items in a pillowcase and then leave,” said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

The former state lawmaker says most of the about 60 burglars his county has arrested recently have trekked from Broward County to Martin County. And, once they leave their home and travel into another county to commit a crime, Snyder says traditional law enforcement methods become less effective as authorities try to capture them…

“…such as using local pawn shop databases to find out where the property is going, using confidential informants, normal proactive police patrols, or targeted patrols based on time in place of burglary. So, we don’t get a pattern. And, of course, when you’re ranging throughout the state, it’s really hard for law enforcement to get a handle on what’s going on,” added Snyder.

Snyder says that’s why he supports a bill authored by Jacksonville Republican Representative Charles McBurney to make it a separate offense for someone to leave the county where they live to commit a crime in another county.  As a former state prosecutor, McBurney calls it a good bill, which he believes will help prosecutors.

“We looked at whether it should be a penalty enhancement or a multiplier and decided the best way to go would be a separate offense...to give prosecutorial discretion—rather than making it something that’s automatic,” said McBurney.

The bill’s Senate sponsor is Port Orange Republican Senator Dorothy Hukill.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.