Sheriff's Office Makes Significant Arrests in Connection with South West Florida Crime Spree

NEWS RELEASE #: 16-228

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested a man and three teens for Grand Theft Auto in connection with a series of vehicle burglaries and thefts that have happened over the past several weeks in the Tampa Bay area.

Based on the recent crime trend happening along the west coast, the sheriff's office conducted an operation early Friday morning in an effort to apprehend thieves targeting Sarasota County. Just after 2:00 a.m., the Public Safety Communications Center received a report of three juveniles trying to open car doors in the 600 block of San Lino Circle in Venice. According to the caller, the juveniles were seen leaving the area in a pickup truck whose tag came back stolen out of St. Petersburg. Deputies responded to the area and found the truck near the intersection of Jacaranda Blvd., and Venice Ave. With support from the Aviation Unit's Air-1 helicopter, Patrol and Tactical Unit deputies followed the vehicle northbound on I-75 until the driver lost control and hit a barrier in the median. Deputies located the driver and three occupants a short distance away where all four were taken into custody.

The adult passenger admitted to detectives that he and the teens traveled in the stolen car from Pinellas County to commit the burglaries in Venice. Darius Smith, 18, Lazarius Faulk, 17, Tynan Hutchinson, 16, and Juan Rodriguez, 16, were arrested and each charged with felony Grand Theft Auto. Smith was released Friday on $1,500 bond and all three juveniles were released to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

The sheriff's office continues to partner with the Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough County sheriff's offices, as well as the St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park police departments, to identify criminals involved in these vehicle thefts in order to deter further crime from affecting the community. Based on investigation, detectives believe these criminals travel in stolen vehicles to certain locations where they burglarize dozens of other cars before ditching the car they arrived in and stealing another one to get away. Over the past few weeks, detectives from across the Tampa Bay area have located several cars stolen from neighboring counties.

"Thanks to a joint effort from personnel across the agency, these arrests were essentially the result of a one-day operation," said Sheriff Knight. "Through intelligence sharing and law enforcement partnerships, we knew these criminals would be hitting Sarasota County so we took extra steps to stop them in their tracks. Let this be a message to other criminals that their behavior is not tolerated in Sarasota County."

The sheriff's office continues to encourage citizens to remain cognizant of this recent crime trend and as always, to contact law enforcement if something seems suspicious. Another way citizens can help deter criminal activity is to make sure their vehicle doors are locked. Since January 1, 2016, more than 87% of vehicle burglaries in Sarasota County have been the result of unlocked cars. The sheriff's office is continuing to educate citizens about prevention through the use of public service announcements and social media initiatives.

Video taken from Air-1 of Friday morning's apprehension can be viewed on the sheriff's office YouTube channel at
Smith Darius_12122016 Faulk Lazarus_12122016 Hutchinson Tynan_12122016 Rodriguez Juan_12122016