Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rash of Robberies Put Police on Alert Surge Drives Up Beach Crime Stats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rash of Robberies Put Police on Alert Surge Drives Up Beach Crime Stats

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Police are investigating a rash of armed robberies in Jacksonville Beach reported since the first of the year, many of them happening in a South Pablo Beach neighborhood known for drug activity.

Even undercover drug officers aren't immune. An officer dressed as a drug dealer, who is part of an ongoing sting operation to thwart drug activity in the area, was robbed Feb. 15 when an interested buyer snatched $40 from his fingers and ran.

That incident was one of six robberies reported since January in a neighborhood between First and Seventh avenues south and Fourth and Seventh streets south. Nearly all those cases involve victims who have given sketchy information and conflicting facts that show they aren't being fully honest about what happened to them, said Lt. Steve Corbitt of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.

Nine other armed robberies have been reported in Jacksonville Beach so far this year. Many of those cases also have problems that will make it hard for police to catch the robbers, Corbitt said.

"I've got to doubt that some of these are real," he said. "Something is occurring, but we don't know what."

If the rate continues, the number of robberies in Jacksonville Beach will match or surpass the 47 robbery cases in 2000.

The Jacksonville Beach Police Department's annual crime report shows robberies went up 42.6 percent from 1999 to 2000. The previous annual report showed robbery cases had declined about 33 percent from 1998 to 1999.

The surge in robberies has helped drive up the department's violent crime statistics, which increased 14 percent in 2000 compared to the year before. While there were no murders in Jacksonville Beach last year, there were 14 sexual assaults and 111 aggravated assaults.

Atlantic Beach saw an 8.5 percent decline in violent crimes from 1999 to 2000. That city had no murders, 10 sexual assaults, 18 robberies and 37 aggravated assaults.

Violent crime went up 20 percent in Neptune Beach from 1999 to 2000. That figure reflects one murder, the only slaying at the Beaches last year, and an increase in people being robbed. …

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