MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) — There’s no question Manatee County is growing. There are new neighborhoods under construction from Palmetto and Parrish to Lakewood Ranch and beyond. With that has come an increase in crimes at construction sites, according to deputies.

“You see developments popping up everywhere you look in these areas, and with that, comes the opportunity, unfortunately, for these kinds of crimes,” said Melissa Conway with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “So far this year, we have seen quite a few of these construction site burglaries. Just to give you an idea of the increase in what is happening, in 2021, we experienced around 50 burglaries to construction sites and in 2022, we had over 130.”

The sheriff’s office has launched a new program to help combat the issue.

“Back in December, we came up with a construction site burglary program that involves contractors and developers. They can go on our website, go to our crime prevention page, and there will be a form that they can fill out that basically is a patrol request. So, where we have the staffing available, we will try to go into those areas, based on the times that they know there are going to be materials delivered and keep an extra eye on those areas,” Conway explained. “It makes it a little easier to make the most of our resources when we get the help from those developers and contractors to know when to be there.”

Contractors and developers can access the construction site burglary watch program by clicking here.

Just last week, deputies responded to reports of a burglary in progress at the Heron Bay community in Palmetto. Someone in the neighborhood told authorities they saw two men loading boxes into a U-Haul truck just before 10 p.m. last Wednesday night. When deputies responded, the suspects fled the scene.

They were later apprehended in Hillsborough County. A K9 Unit and deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office tracked the suspect down with help from MSO’s aviation unit.

Alexi Milian-Hernandez and Asiel Mesa Labrador remain in the Hillsborough County Jail. Both suspects had multiple outstanding felony warrants out of Hillsborough County, according to the sheriff’s office. They’re now charged with burglary of an unoccupied structure, trespassing, and fleeing to elude law enforcement, among other charges.