The statement came after weekend thefts at four businesses and work sites from Palm City to Port Salerno netted $22,877 worth of items from hurricane shutters to Goodyear tractor-trailer tires and rims.

"We had to do something. It's getting away from us and we want to try and really be responsive," sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Jenell Atlas said. "... By working as a team, we hope to see trends."

"The more construction, unfortunately, these thefts are going to go up," she said, especially in new developments. "There's nobody out there living yet, so the thieves have free range."

Along with the task force, Atlas said Martin County detectives will send regular e-mail updates to the Treasure Coast Builder's Association and its members.

"I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was a great idea," Don Santos, a home builder and director of the association, said after he got the first such e-mail recently. " If you can communicate to enough people quick enough, we can help thwart these criminals."

And Santos said it's not just construction sites where such crimes are committed: Businesses where equipment is stored and work trucks parked are also being hit.

"I will tell you categorically that the carpenters and workers that get their tools stolen don't have insurance or adequate insurance. So that's a real big deal to them. A real big deal ...," he said. "When tools are stolen, it literally puts these guys out of work."

"We do meet with the surrounding counties regularly. ... Obviously we're looking to compare notes and come up with solutions to catch these people," said Officer Robert Vega, the Port St. Lucie Police Department spokesman. "Ultimately, I think the growth up and down the coast is why people are targeting this area."

"We have been making arrests on it," said Deputy Jeff Luther, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It's a major problem (and) we do a lot of work in the four-county area."

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