PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — If not for one neighbor looking out for another, the day may have ended differently for Jennifer Bishop.
A quick thinking, observant neighbor played a key role Tuesday in the arrest of three teens suspected of burglarizing Bishop's house, according to a Port St. Lucie police spokesman Wednesday and records.
Her 50-year old neighbor on Southwest McMullen Street, who couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, called police when he saw people breaking into the house in the 3200 block of Southwest Escarole Street. Officers rushed to the scene.
"If he would have looked out there and said, ‘Wow that's strange,' and didn't call, then we wouldn't have had anything," said Master Sgt. Frank Sabol, police spokesman.
Instead, the man called, stayed on the line, and gave a blow-by-blow playback on what was going on.
Investigators ultimately nabbed Terrel Strong, 19; a 17-year-old boy; and a 16-year-old boy, Sabol said.
"But for the neighbor calling and being alert, we would have never been called until probably after the homeowner got home and realized that they had been burglarized," Sabol said.
The man's actions led to police catching the teens with the property.
Bishop, 31, said she lives in the burglarized home with her boyfriend and 18-month-old child. She said she's not familiar with the neighbor who called, but is extremely grateful he did.
"I know it's been happening so often lately that I shouldn't have been surprised," Bishop said, noting recent media coverage of 11 burglaries in Port St. Lucie.
Sabol said the incident didn't appear to be one of the "pillowcase" burglaries that have plagued Martin County and have come into Port St. Lucie.
In general, pillowcase burglars come from the Fort Lauderdale area and burglarize residential areas near Interstate 95, law enforcement officials have said. They use pillowcases to haul away the stolen goods.
Strong's listed address is in Fort Lauderdale, but Sabol said he lives there part time, and attends high school in Port St. Lucie.
Bishop said she left for her job at a law firm in Stuart hours before the burglary, while her boyfriend left about 30 minutes before the incident.
"We were just talking about it ... and saying we thought it was good that he was always in and out of the house for work," Bishop said. "We didn't think it would happen because it's not like there's a specific time that we're not home. It's always different."
Strong was arrested on charges including unarmed burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, larceny grand theft and two counts of resisting an officer without violence. Sabol said he initially gave a false name and birth date.
He and the 17-year-old boy were tracked to a wooded lot in the 1200 block of Southwest San Esteban Avenue, where they disrobed "to try to throw off the scent of the dogs," Sabol said.
The 17-year-old was arrested on charges including violation of probation, burglary, grand theft and resisting arrest without violence, Sabol said.
The 16-year-old acted as a lookout, and was arrested on a burglary charge, Sabol said.
Police have been urging residents to report suspicious activity, vehicles or people in their neighborhood.
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers customarily does not name juveniles accused of crimes but does name some juveniles depending on the seriousness of the crime, their age, aggravating circumstances and other factors.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE A PERSON BREAKING INTO A HOME:
Call the police from a secure location, and stay on the phone with operators to provide as much information as possible.
Do not confront the burglar or burglars.
Do not put yourself in harms way.
Get as detailed a description as possible of the person, including the clothes.
If the burglar has a vehicle, try to record the tag number.
Do not follow the burglar. Report which way the burglar left and also whether the person was carrying anything.
SOURCE: Master Sgt. Frank Sabol, Port St. Lucie police spokesman.