BELLEAIR – The Belleair Police Department has numerous fishing poles, a golf bag and several golf clubs that they would like to give back to the owners.
The problem is they don’t know who those owners are. They are looking for the victims of burglaries this summer to come forward and claim their goods.
The story of how the police came to have the stolen goods began in May when Belleair residents began complaining that things were missing from their garages in broad daylight. It wasn’t until July when 48-year-old Gary Nolan was arrested that they began to grasp the scope of what he was charged with doing.
According to Belleair Detective Jim Howard, Nolan, would walk into any garage with an open door and help himself.
“He was pretty brazen,” said Howard. “He would steal fishing poles then he’d drive around until he saw a boat in someone’s driveway. He’d approach them to buy the poles and often people did.”
Over a two-month period, police said Nolan stole from homes in Harbor Bluffs, Belleair Bluffs and Largo in addition to Belleair.
Once he was arrested on July 19, Howard said Nolan began to cooperate.
“He did what we call a show and tell,” said Howard. “We drove him around and he pointed out where he stole things, where he pawned them and homes where he sold them.”
Once the police had that information, they were able to recover the stolen goods. Anything that was pawned was put on hold and the rightful owner could get it back by paying the pawnshop the exact amount of money the shop paid Nolan. In the case of one set of golf clubs that was $50.
Residents who bought from Nolan, according to Howard, are victims too.
“They are required to return the stolen goods. So they are out the money they paid,” he said. “However, if no one comes forward to claim the goods, then they get it back.”
When Howard called Nolan brazen he had the stories to back it up.
“On one occasion he went into a garage and walked out with fishing poles,” said Howard. “The lady of the house saw him and spoke to him because she thought he was with a church group where her husband was on a fishing retreat. She thought he came to get the poles for that. He didn’t reply but kept on walking.”
On another occasion Howard said Nolan walked up to a house and in front of a witness, took a set of golf clubs, which were on the front porch.
Nolan even stole the same car twice, Howard said.
“The car was unlocked so he got in, found a valet key and drove away. When the car ran out of gas he ditched it,” said Howard. “The owners recovered it, gassed it up and brought it home. Later Nolan, with the valet key, got in and drove it away again.”
It was in that car he was arrested on July 19. Store cameras had identified Nolan after he used a stolen Lowe’s gift card. When Pinellas County deputies went to arrest him at his home on Eighth Street in Largo, he fled in the car. Deputies caught him after a pursuit that ended across from the Bay Pines VA hospital. Nolan is currently in the Pinellas County jail awaiting sentencing for those crimes.
All this brings police to remind residents to close their garage doors even during the day and to lock their cars, especially at night.
Anyone who lost property because of the burglaries can call the Belleair Police at 588-3769. Arrangements will be made to have folks identify the goods and pick them up.