MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — One thing Syd Jones can't tolerate is a thief.
The 72-year Old Palm City man felt that way long before Monday, when he became one of the eight victims this week of pillowcase burglars.
"I hate a thief," said Jones Thursday afternoon, three days after thieves made off with his wife's jewelry, $700 in cash and a pair of knives he was saving for his grandsons. "Gosh darnit, you work your fanny off for something and a thief comes along and takes it."
Since 2011, the Sheriff's Office has investigated 92 burglaries, with 16 of those occurring this year involving a group of burglars from Broward traveling to Martin County to break into homes and steal jewelry, cash, guns and cart the loot off in pillowcases taken from victims' bedroom.
"I would say that there is not a home in Martin County that is immune to this," Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said.
Since the burglaries started, 29 adults and one juvenile have been charged with thefts. All of them are from the same area in Broward County. It is not suspected that they are working together, Snyder said.
The adults are still behind bars at Martin County Jail and the juvenile is being held at a detention facility outside Martin, Snyder said. No one has been arrested in connection with this week's break-ins.
The burglars, who often strike between 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. when victims are at work or running errands, receive the moniker for taking pillowcases off the bed of homes they break-in to cart away their loot. Thieves enter the homes by shattering sliding glass doors or windows. In less than five minutes they toss a room; pulling out drawers looking for cash and knocking pictures off walls searching for safes.
One burglary occurred Friday followed by three each on Monday and Wednesday. Those break-ins occurred in neighborhoods near Interstate 95, Florida's Turnpike and Kanner Highway because roads allowed for a quick getaway. and the homes are less likely to be occupied during the day.
"Palm City is a traditional working class neighborhood where people are less likely to be home during the day," Snyder said.
When Jones returned to his home near the Palm City Bridge, he found thieves broke a glass pane in his door after failed attempts to break three hurricane resistant windows. Inside the home, all the wall picture frames were broken on the floor and his clothes were strewed across the bedroom.
And to add insult to injury, Jones said the burglars attempted to give him a higher electric bill.
"I came home and they had left on every light in the house," Jones said. Oh, my gosh they could have turned off the lights."
After hitting Jones' home, burglars traveled down the block to Rosanna Winninham's home, where they made off with an unknown amount of jewelry.
"It's unsettling." Winninham said on Thursday. "For something like this to happen in broad daylight is shocking. What if my children were home?"
Burglars on Wednesday attempted to break-in to Jessica Sines home in the Cane Creek subdivision but were slowed by her hurricane resistant windows. Thieves cracked a glass window in the kitchen but never entered the home.
"Obviously it's scary. But they were not able to access our home and that makes me feel better," Sines said.
Snyder said the sheriff's office is doing everything possible to nab the thieves.
Plainclothes and uniformed deputies are patrolling neighborhoods, and he is talking to residents about forming neighborhood watch groups. Snyder said he is "pleading" with residents to remain alert and call 911 anytime they see anything suspicious in their neighborhoods.
"I would love to put a deputy on every block," Snyder said. "But my resources are finite."