By Jason KUROSU
On Feb. 5 at about 7:15 p.m., two burglars broke into a La Crescenta home and nearly made off with a fair amount of loot.
The homeowner, “Joe,” had arrived home a few minutes earlier than usual and confronted the two burglars. The two men fled with less than they had hoped for, but not before breaking his jaw in an altercation.
On Monday night, Joe spoke about the experience at the La Crescenta Library.
“It’s a very surreal experience having someone in your house. You don’t want this to happen to you. It was terrifying.”
According to Joe, a watch, some cash and his wife’s purse were taken. Joe also found a large stack of electronics that the burglars never managed to escape with.
Afterwards, Joe and his wife purchased an alarm system and another dog. They also met with some of the neighbors on their block in an informal neighborhood watch meeting. Monday night was the second meeting, though no neighborhood watch has been officially formed as of yet.
Jorge Valdivia, Community Relations deputy from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept., spoke at the meeting, giving advice on how to form a neighborhood watch and how to keep one’s home safe.
“You’ll hear me say it a hundred times. This is one of the safest parts of the county where you could live. That being said, this is also a great opportunity for burglars who are from outside this area to come here and burglarize us,” Valdivia said.
Valdivia added that even though violent crimes are nearly nonexistent in the foothills area, burglaries and thefts are occurring. Valdivia offered tips for deterring would be thieves, including buying an alarm system and a dog.
“If they see this house has two dogs and an alarm and this one has nothing, which house do you think they’re going to rob?”
For those who might not want to buy an alarm system or a dog, it was suggested that signs in the front from an alarm company or a Beware of Dog sign might be enough to make burglars think twice.
However, Valdivia also provided some tips that wouldn’t necessitate spending money.
“You may hear of the very common, very simple ruse that burglars use to get into homes,” he said. “They knock on a door. Anybody answers? No.
“I’ve heard people ask, should I answer? Should I not answer? Please answer so they’ll know that you are home. I guarantee you they don’t want any face to face confrontations. They don’t want to be identified. Most of them will drive away, walk away or run away.”
Though he ended up getting his jaw broken, Joe echoed Valdivia’s words in regards to the burglary at his house.
“They didn’t want to fight. They didn’t say anything. They just wanted to run away.”
Though Valdivia said he probably would not be able to stop himself from confronting the burglars were he in Joe’s position, he advised, “Tell them ‘Take what you want and get out.’ It’s what they want.”
Valdivia fielded an array of questions. Many people wondered if it would be too rash to contact the police with mere suspicions raised from a door left ajar, a suspicious car, etc.
“We respond to every call,” said Valdivia.
Valdivia also provided reading materials for the attendees, including a Home and Personal Safety Handbook and a map which residents could use to gather information from their neighbors to better formulate an effective neighborhood watch.
But what he most wanted to provide was the idea that communicating with neighbors is vital for home safety.
Describing a scenario in which an unfamiliar car might be parked in front of a neighbor’s home, Valdivia said, “If you’re going to be out of town, let them know what cars might be expected in front of your house.”
Valdivia also mentioned that the Sheriff’s Dept. has vacation slips at the station. Homeowners can write down when they will be out of town and the sheriffs will patrol the area while the residents are gone.
“I don’t want everybody to live in fear,” he said. “I just want you to be proactive in case someone wants to break into your home.”
Anyone who is interested in forming a neighborhood watch or has general questions about home safety may contact Deputy Valdivia at (818) 236-4021.