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Burglar targets cars at Burton Memorial Park during games; More thefts at nearby mall reported

By Staff | Mar 21, 2008

A thief allegedly made off with more than $3,000 in cash and stolen items at a local softball game Tuesday evening, including a police officer’s badge. Several burglaries were also reported at a nearby shopping plaza at about the same time.

The burglaries of at least five vehicles, with stolen items valued at a total of $3,226, were reported at Burton Memorial Park at approximately 10:30 p.m. when one of the games let out.

Cape Coral police spokesperson Dyan Lee said Thursday that it appears the burglaries at Burton Memorial Park are related.

Reports indicate that the suspect broke windows, forced entry and used puncturing tools to break into the vehicles — and in a well-lit parking lot during a softball game, according to one mother and victim.

Melissa Dawn Leschewski, 40, of North Fort Myers, was returning to her SUV after watching her 12-year-old daughter play softball when she discovered her window broken and her purse gone.

“There was all this broken glass,” she said. “I thought a softball hit my car.”

But then Leschewski noticed her purse had been taken from its hiding spot in the vehicle.

“We were right there under the lights. It’s amazing,” she said. “I went out to the car to get lollipops at 9:20 and I didn’t notice anything.”

In fact, no one saw the burglaries occur, despite softball games taking place on all four of the park’s ballfields at the time, said Leschewski.

Leschewski lost her purse, a few credit cards, a pair of sunglasses and a digital camera, according to a police report. But she also lost $200 worth of Braves tickets, an Easter present to her daughters, she said.

Other items reported stolen included cash, credit cards, jewelry, an mp3 player, various identification cards and a police badge.

The Cape Coral police officer whose badge was stolen from her vehicle at the game declined to comment on the incident.

“We have our girls and boys in these extra curricular activities so they won’t turn out like that,” said Leschewski. “It’s just horrible, and I doubt we’ll get any of it (stolen items) back.”

She said all of the vehicles were armed with alarms, none of which sounded during the burglaries. Leschewski said she also believes all the vehicles broken into were SUVs or trucks because purses can be hidden in the trunks of cars, which are more difficult to break into. She said purses seemed to be the primary target for the burglar.

Another victim, Jessica Anne Cole, 41, of Cape Coral, was running one of the concession stands Tuesday evening when her vehicle was broken into.

Cole said she believes the problem is countywide and may be related to larger burglary rings. She said police told her vehicle burglars often return to the same places to commit crimes.

“There is no city park you can think you’re safe,” said Cole.

Janie Boyd, spokesperson for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies had not noticed specific trends toward vehicle burglaries at parks, but she suggests always hiding belongings, locking them in the trunk or glove box, and locking car doors.

Another string of vehicle burglaries, in the Coralwood Mall parking lot near L.A. Fitness, were reported at about the same time Tuesday, between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

A total of $2,038 was reported stolen from three vehicles in the parking lot. The mall is located at 2301 Del Prado Blvd., only a few miles from Burton Memorial Park.

Police had not made any arrests as of Thursday evening regarding the burglaries.