Thieves smash their way into Polk seniors' cars

- Police are investigating a string of auto burglaries targeting senior citizens like Theola Dowe, who woke up Tuesday morning to find her car damaged and the inside ransacked.

"I had my pain medicine in my glove compartment -- Hydrocodone," she said. 

She says about 50 pills were swiped by thieves. She was just one of a handful of victims at the Renaissance at Washington Ridge Senior Community.

"It's very unique that all 16 cars had their windows smashed out. We don't see that in one spot," Lakeland police Sgt. Gary Gross said Wednesday.

Police say the subsidized housing community is generally crime-free.  Many of the victims, like Lenwood Harris, are living on a low, fixed income.

"I almost cried. It's the only thing I own and I have a $200 insurance deductible. So that will be $200 out of my pocket," Harris said. 

Some residents are asking for the Lakeland Housing Authority to increase security and surveillance. Housing officials say the funding isn't there, and neither is the need.

"Something like this isn't a normal occurrence. We've never, to my knowledge, had anything like this occur," Lakeland Housing Authority Executive Director Ben Stevenson said.

The Lakeland Housing Authority is meeting with residents at the Renaissance at Washington Ridge tomorrow afternoon to discuss safety concerns.  Lakeland police promise to heighten their presence in the area until those responsible are caught.

In the meantime, residents say they're on edge.

"We have our cars out here, we are residents out here, we are seniors out here. If we can't be safe going back and forth to our car when we please, then something needs to change," Dowe said.

If you have any information on the crime, you're asked to call Lakeland police.

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