STUART, Fla. -- Several Martin County neighborhoods are on edge and the Sheriff's Office is on alert after a sharp increase in home burglaries.
Since 2011, ninety-four homes have been targeted in a series of "pillow case burglaries," the Martin County Sheriff's Office said.
Eight homes have been targeted over the past week.
"They're kicking doors and shattering out glass. They go right into the house. They're looking for small valuables. Guns. Jewelry. Cash. Rare coins. Anything they can gather up and put in a pillow case," said Sheriff William Snyder.
The Sheriff's Office said the thieves usually rent cars in Miami-Dade or Broward counties, tint their windows and drive to the Treasure Coast.
Mary Jones, a Palm City resident, said thieves recently broke into her home of 42 years.
"I was at work. And, my husband was out. He got home about Noon. So, it happened between eleven and twelve o'clock," Jones said. "The door was unlocked when he went in. And, the first thing he saw was the flat screen TV sitting on the floor in front. And then, pictures knocked off the wall. [It was] just total disarray."
Jones said her neighbor's home was also burglarized the same day.
"It's a real tragedy. It's an invasion. It really is," Jones said. "My granddaughter said it the best. She said, "How can you walk [into] somebody's house and see all these pictures of children and families hanging around and still just go through and, you know, and trash it? [COVER] So, it has to be somebody, obviously, who is very cold hearted."
The Sheriff's Office has arrested 30 people in connection with the burglaries in Jensen Beach, Palm City, Stuart and other cities.
Snyder said more deputies were patrolling neighborhoods and more plain clothes deputies were on the streets.
He encouraged homeowners to report anyone who looked out of place in their neighborhood.
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A silent crisis for senior citizens in Florida
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- Years-long waiting lists for affordable housing and a decline in the returns of personal investments has led to a silent crisis for senior citizens in Florida, the president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans warned on Friday.
Tony Fransetta, the FARA president, predicted the problem would get worse as more of us aged.
By 2030, he said, one in five Americans would be over 55-years-old.
"We have a silent crisis that is coming at us. It's kind of like walking into a tunnel and you see a train coming toward you. You see a headlight. It's coming and we're doing nothing to prevent it," Fransetta said.
Fransetta said an increased cost of living, a decline in 401(k), pension and stock returns and a lack of affordable housing have contributed to the problem.
Adding to the problem, he said, was a drastic cut to subsidies for senior housing -- from more than $400 million in 2005 to $78 million in 2011.
"Most times, after paying the rent, nothing is left to get medication or even food," said Julia Brown, a senior citizen. "It's disgraceful for America. [It is] one of the richest countries in the world. The seniors are not being taken care of. And, that's terrible."
Jason Pincus, a director of field operations for the Fort Lauderdale-based Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation, said some seniors have waited three years or longer to find affordable housing.
He said the stress weighed on many families.
"As a child, me and my sister have to help my mother, you know, every month [to] be able to cover her expenses," Pincus said. "It's come to the point where I can't afford it. I'm not going to get it anymore. So, we're having to help chip in where we can't afford it."
Onthoniel Rivera, a senior citizen, said he has waited five years for affordable housing -- and is still waiting.
"There's a lot of people in the same situation as mine. Or, maybe, worse," Rivera said. "I've been living in a small room [with] no kitchen, no stove, you know?" And, trying to make it in there until I find something better."
Fransetta said FARA and others have lobbied the Florida legislature and members of Congress to better-fund affordable housing for seniors to get ahead of the problem before it gets worse.