Is residential burglary on the rise in Destin?

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

In recent months, several Destin residents have reached out to The Log via social media with questions regarding whether or not the number of residential burglaries in the city is on the rise. The Log contacted the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) to get the statistics as well as some valuable tips on how to prevent both vehicular and home burglaries.

Ashley Bailey, the crime prevention specialist for OCSO said that while residential burglaries seem to be about the same in Destin compared to last year, vehicular burglaries are significantly higher.

“If you look at the total for the whole year they aren’t that different,” she said of home burglaries. “It is slightly higher this year but not as high as vehicle burglaries. But there are overall more burglaries on the end of the year 2015 then in 2014.”

Here are the numbers including both the city of Destin and unincorporated Okaloosa County:

Total residential burglaries for 2015: 90 compared to 85 in 2014.

Total vehicular burglaries for 2015: 205 compared to 137 in 2014.

In looking at the numbers month-by-month, specifically in the city limits of Destin there were 20 burglaries in July, 17 in August, 39 in September then 29 in October, 29 in November and 29 in December.

When asked why the sharp rise in burglaries in September after the busy months of summer vacationers, Bailey said it had to do with perceived burglary opportunity.

“We ended up having a suspect targeting vacant homes and vacation units,” Bailey said. “He was targeting homes that were vacant that is why there were more in September, October and November because there were guests staying in them during the summer months.”

The suspect referred to was recently arrested in Destin on burglary charges connected with vacant homes and is still under investigation.

“A lot of people were concerned about all the burglaries that have been going on and knowing that we have a suspect in custody will put them at ease,” said OCSO Investigator Richard Cooper. “I think those type burglaries with rental units will go down now. We stress to everybody, property manager, owners, get serial numbers; have an inventory of everything you have in the house especially electronics. That way if we do come across it we can say where it came from.”

As for prevention, both Cooper and Bailey said locking doors and windows is the first step in preventing robberies in both homes and vehicles.

“A lot of people in Destin think it’s a quiet sleepy town where they can leave everything unlocked, but it’s not like that anymore,” said Cooper.

“Some of them were no-forced entry so they were homes that were left unlocked,” added Bailey of the burgled homes this year.

The second most effective way to prevent burglary is to organize a neighborhood watch. The more eyes on the lookout, the better.

Councilwoman Sandy Trammell recently held a neighborhood watch meeting in her home in the Marino Acres subdivision.

“We had a burglary on Halloween in our neighborhood and we were all out with our kids trick-or-treating so with that burglary we have a neighborhood community list we are trying to get together,” she said. “Ashley Bailey from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office came out to talk to us about how to create a neighborhood watch and how to make our neighborhood safer. We found out that neighborhood watch is just getting to know your neighbors and knowing who is a stranger in your neighborhood.”

Here are some tips offered by the OCSO to keep both homes and vehicles safer and less attractive to burglars.

“For vehicles, we say: ‘Lock, Take, Hide,’” said Bailey. “Lock your car, take your keys and hide your belongings. We are still at almost 90 percent of vehicle burglaries being no forced-entry meaning they are unlocked.”

As for home burglary prevention tips Bailey said lawn appearance and lighting are both key.

“Cut back bushes and shrubs,” she said. “All bushes should be under three feet and all trees should be six-foot and up. The space between the two should be completely open and motion lighting is a big thing.”

One big way to prevent burglary while out of town is a service most do not realize is available said Bailey.

“You can order a vacation watch on your home while you are away for free,” she said. “This is for visitors or residents and with a vacation watch order deputies will check on your house while you are gone.”

For more information visit or to report suspicious behavior call the OCSO non-emergency number 850-651-7400.