FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police arrested an accused serial burglar, Thursday, after he allegedly broke into homes tented for fumigation.
According to police, 38-year-old Derek Levon Bell was arrested, Sunday.
Bell has prior arrests for similar crimes, police said, and has two active warrants out of Broward County.
Detectives believe Bell got away with about $300,000 worth of valuables from homes in Hollywood, Miramar and Fort Lauderdale. Police were able to fill a room with all the valuables they found, including Barbie dolls, jewelry, electronics, paintings and DVDs.
“I mean you walk in here, and it looks like a pawn shop. It is mind-blowing,” said Miranda Grossman, of Hollywood Police.
Twenty-three people have since come forward to police about stolen property.
Police said they noticed a pattern of burglaries since May at homes tented for termites.
“Our officers put together an operation in place,” Grossman said.
They staked out homes like Francis Palacio’s. Someone swiped some of her most treasured items while she and her granddaughter stayed in a hotel during the tenting process.
“Well, man, I tell you, I was not a happy camper, the fact that somebody has come into my house and gone through my things,” Palacio said.
But detectives said they spotted him on his way out of the home.
“They followed him to his apartment in Miramar, and that’s when they opened the door, and all of this turned up,” Grossman said.
Police believe about 30 homes were burglarized.
Palacio was able to get her Elvis 45s back and, she said, Bell even took prescription bottles filled with coins.
On Thursday, however, Bell didn’t have any luck when he faced a judge.
“Is it possible that some of these charges could be reduced, as far as bond amount goes?” Bell asked. “I know it’s a long shot. I’m just asking.”
Palacio said she was happy to know the alleged burglar was in jail.
“It’s upsetting that somebody came into my house. However, it gives me a good feeling, though, that hey, you came into my house, and you’re paying for it now because they caught you,” Palacio said.
“Thank goodness they’re in jail now because I stand up for my family,” Palacio’s granddaughter Ashey Mark said.
Palacio said she is still missing a family heirloom, a cowbell that has been in her family for generations. She is hoping Hollywood Police find it amongst the trove of stolen belongings.
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