Burglaries in unincorporated Collier County and Everglades City jumped by 26 percent from 2010 through 2011, an increase partly attributed foreclosures.
The jump is part of an overall 4.8 percent increase in reported "Part 1 crimes" — from 5,924 in 2010 to 6,206 in 2011. Part 1 crimes are homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.
The reported burglaries increased from 1,090 to 1,373, according to the report, which law enforcement agencies statewide submit to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"We as a community have been dealing with the ramifications of vacant homes for several years now," Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. "As these homes are now beginning to change hands, people are discovering that at some point in time a burglary has occurred."
Increased prescription drug abuse, the ongoing negative economy and crimes of opportunity affected last year's numbers, said Rambosk, who noted that the community mirrored a national crime trend of increased thefts of lawn equipment, catalytic converters and copper.
Car thieves also were busier, stealing 194 vehicles, compared with 182 the year before, and larcenies (thefts) inched up from 3,675 to 3,683. However, there was an 11.1 percent decrease in larcenies from motor vehicles, which Rambosk attributed to urging residents to hide or remove valuables visible to thieves.
He urged residents to use those same crime prevention measures to reduce burglaries by locking doors and windows, activating alarm systems — if available — and joining or forming a neighborhood watch group or Community Safety Team.
"No increase in crime is acceptable to me or to our community," Rambosk said, listing the elements at the root of crime — ability, desire and opportunity. "We can't control ability and desire, but we can control opportunity."
The overall number of violent crimes decreased 2.1 percent last year, with homicides dropping from 10 to nine, and aggravated assaults decreasing from 662 to 628, a 5.1 percent drop. But two violent crime categories increased: Robberies grew from 195 to 208, and sexual assaults inched up from 110 to 111.
The numbers don't include the city of Naples, which earlier this week reported a 2.3 percent increase in crime within its jurisdiction in 2011.
Since the release of last year's midyear numbers, the Sheriff's Office launched a new proactive crime-fighting initiative called Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS), which integrates crimes based on locations and traffic crash data to determine how to use resources in the most effective way.
The agency also increased awareness efforts to help the community understand the critical role they play in keeping the county safe. Here are some ways citizens can help:
Lock your car and keep valuables out of view.
Call 239-252-0700 to schedule a home or business security survey with a Sheriff's Office crime prevention specialist.
Report unusual activity.
Start or join a neighborhood watch program.
Mentor a child.
Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
Join one of the Sheriff's Office Community Safety Teams to help address code enforcement problems and other neighborhood issues.
Protect personal information, including your Social Security number, computer passwords and banking information.
When online, don't chat with strangers or respond to their emails.