LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Thieves were about to strip a newly-renovated home for sale of its major appliances until a neighborhood saw something and said something.
“Get to know your neighbors. It’s a very good thing. You can watch out for them and they can watch out for you,” said Officer Stephanie Kerr, public information officer for Lakeland Police Department.
According to police, a neighbor noticed a suspicious vehicle at the home at 4:30 a.m. Thursday before hearing glass break.
“They didn’t pick a residence where people were inside. They picked a time in the morning where they thought they wouldn’t be noticed, 4:30 in the morning,” said Kerr.
Pictures from the scene show wires hanging out of the wall and appliances strewn about the entranceway.
In all, the thieves attempted to steal the refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, stove, and microwave before fleeing when an officer arrived.
“They drove directly for her car, struck her driver’s door with their front bumper and then fled further,” said Kerr.
According to police, the officer’s leg was pinned against her cruiser.
The suspects, James Williams, 26, and Jimmy Robinson, 33, were arrested after crashing into a utility pole.
“The suspects in this case were both from the Orlando area. Why they were in Lakeland, we don’t know how they targeted this community in particular. Maybe because it’s not too far from I-4,” said Officer Kerr.
“We’ve sold over 2,700 homes and have not seen a trend of attempted or successful thefts. In this case, we love when a great neighbor like this sees something suspicious and calls it in and they are caught. The seller appreciates it,” said Ann Marie Anderson, with the Tony Baroni Team, the realtors selling the home.
Countywide, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said there have been 57 cases of appliance thefts since January.
Fifty-three of those thefts occurred at homes under construction. Forty-four were in the northeast district.
Many sites are now equipped with cameras and gates to ward off would-be appliance abductors.
“It can be something just as simple as a doorbell camera. Those are very effective,” said Officer Kerr.