LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Four Polk County teenagers were arrested Monday after they burglarized 15 vehicles across three different apartment complexes, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said they responded to a burglary call at the Avenue Apartments in Lakeland at about 2:10 a.m. Monday.
Deputies said a witness told them they saw four suspected thieves drive south on Florida Avenue before turning west on Shepard Road.
After a search of the area, detectives found a purse belonging to a victim whose Ford Explorer and credit cards were stolen. According to the sheriff’s office, the victim said she got an alert from her bank that a credit card was used to buy gasoline from a RaceTrac in Bartow.
Deputies later found the Explorer at Mavis Tires and Brakes in Lakeland.
“Detectives obtained video surveillance from Mavis Tires that shows two suspects arriving at the business in a four-door Kia, parking, and then walking towards the Ariva Apartments,” the sheriff’s office said. “The suspects return to the Kia and wait for several minutes, until the stolen Explorer arrives and parks. Two other suspects exit the SUV and get into the Kia, and all four leave. Detectives also obtained video from the RaceTrac that shows the suspects using the stolen credit card to put gas in the Kia, and an attempt to withdraw cash from the ATM.”
The sheriff’s office said the suspects were Eugene Akins, 18, of Tampa, and three minors, two of them from Tampa and one from Bartow.
According to deputies, the teens burglarized 15 vehicles across the Avenue Apartments, the Ariva Apartments in Lakeland, and the Huntington at Sundance Apartments in Mulberry. All of the burglarized vehicles were unlocked, and one person had a gun stolen from his vehicle, authorities said.
Deputies found the four suspects at a relative’s house in Bartow. The sheriff’s office said they found three guns, the keys to the stolen Explorer, and stolen credit cards.
Akines and two of the teens said they committed the burglaries, with Akines serving as a lookout. Akines also admitted to using a stolen credit card at an ATM at the RaceTrac in Bartow, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Thanks to the citizen who saw something and said something, four criminals are off the street,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “Our Juvenile Justice System must hold juveniles committing crime accountable to protect communities from becoming victimized. I also have another message to the community — please help yourselves by locking your vehicles to help prevent thieves from easily accessing the things you work hard for. And don’t leave firearms or other valuables inside unsecured vehicles.”
All four suspects face various charges for theft and other crimes, deputies said.