By Mary O’KEEFE
Residential and vehicle burglaries seem to have become almost commonplace in recent years. As soon as new anti-theft technology is introduced those who make a career from burglary appear to know more about it than residents. Security cameras, like Ring, in some cases are able to get clear pictures of burglary suspects but that has not stopped the increase in burglaries throughout Southern California.
Recently, a family found that even though they had a security company watching their home, they still became victims of residential burglary.
The shock of being a victim of burglary usually doesn’t hit family members all at once. First there is the realization that someone entered your home, your safe place. Then begins the itemization of missing items, which is not always easy. While the loss of some items is obvious, the loss of other things, including keepsakes, may not be discovered until weeks after the burglary. For some, fear sets in with thoughts of “what if.” There is also anger – anger toward the suspects for invading your home and sometimes toward law enforcement for not doing enough, fast enough.
The victim of a recent burglary shared her frustration that deputies did not seem to be following up on the crime.
“I had to suggest they take fingerprints,” she said in a CVW interview.
She was also frustrated with the length of time – days¬ – it took to get someone from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. to take fingerprints.
“I found out that several homes in the area have been burglarized,” she said. The homes had been burglarized over the last year.
Other burglary victims shared similar concerns on how other law enforcement agencies were slow to find their missing items, or felt these agencies weren’t taking the investigation seriously.
Det. Anthony Meyers, LASD Crescenta Valley Station, said he understood the frustration of burglary victims.
“But just because you don’t see us [at the home] doesn’t mean we are not looking into the [burglary],” he said.
Law enforcement shows on television may show that crimes are solved within an hour, but it is rarely as easy as having a section of a fingerprint lead investigators directly to the criminal. Those interviewed for this article were not under any misconception that their burglary would be solved before the late night news; however, there are some misconceptions that do linger.
Real investigations are often tedious and take time. According to Meyers, everything done during an investigation is with the goal of finding the suspect or suspects and being able to prosecute and convict.
According to Meyers, when a call comes into the CV Sheriff’s Station concerning a possible burglary, either via a 911 call or an alarm sounded, deputies in patrol units are usually the first to arrive.
“They get all the information from any witnesses,” he said.
The deputies interview the victims and neighbors, and look for any surveillance footage from all angles of the area. If the initial call includes a description of a suspect/suspects or a vehicle, patrol deputies search the area. Deputies take the description and send it to other law enforcement agencies. If stolen items have serial numbers, deputies take those numbers to help in the investigation.
Detectives don’t normally get a particular burglary assigned to them until four or five days after the initial call. It is then that the detectives review all the information gathered by the deputies and go to the location to sit down with the victim/victims.
“I walk around and talk to the neighbors,” Meyers said.
There are times when people remember something after the initial burglary.
The detectives look at the evidence and read the witnesses’ reports objectively, Meyers said. He added there are times when a witness, or a security camera, has caught the license plate on a car that fled the area after the burglary. But even with the serial numbers of stolen items or photo of suspect/suspects and suspicious vehicle it still takes law enforcement time to pull all the information together in a way that will stand up in court when an arrest is made.
“One of our partners did a search warrant at a [suspect’s residence] and found numerous [items] of [stolen] property,” he said.
That search was a year after the burglaries.
Meyers stressed that it is about being patient and persistent when it comes to investigating. For some burglary victims, the investigation time seems too long and they put photos of suspects on social media, or send information on missing items to local pawnshops. This can become a problem for law enforcement.
In one case, a photo of a burglary suspect who was captured by a home security camera was put on social media. Investigators had recognized the suspect, went to his last known residence where a family member said he had left. Criminals also follow social media; it is suspected this man knew he had been seen burglarizing a residence and made certain he was not easily found.
Another issue that occurs when someone “helps” the investigation is how information is gathered. Law enforcement officers take great care as to how evidence is collected to make certain that it is presented to the district attorney after all the rules have been followed to better secure a conviction. This is when good communication among law enforcement, victims and neighbors becomes imperative.
Residents are encouraged to call local law enforcement if they see anything suspicious.
“The burglaries can be [done by] burglary crews, gang members or someone high on drugs,” Meyers said. “There are a lot of different crews [working] all over [LA County].”
He added law enforcement, including LASD, Glendale Police Dept., Los Angeles Police Dept. and other agencies, work together to share information.
“We get updated on [other agency] burglaries and when we get information we put it out on a bulletin [to other law enforcement agencies],” he added.
A concern one of the victims shared was what happened directly after their home was burglarized. People who stated they were representatives of ADT, the family’s security company, went to neighbors telling them of the recent burglary in an attempt to sell security systems.
According to Bob Tucker from ADT, he was not aware of who was going door-to-door; however, that could be possible if the person is an “authorized dealer” with ADT.
“We do have guidelines and they have to follow the process,” he said. “We do see imposters sometimes [who are] making false claims and making false sales.”
ADT works as a brand that several, over 200 companies, work with to sell home security. ADT corporate does not have door-to-door sales people but works through authorized dealers.
Tucker added if anyone is suspicious or concerned about someone coming to their residence stating they are from ADT or any other security system company, they should contact that specific company. For ADT, that number is (800) 238-2727.
“One of the best preventive measures is to be in good communications with neighbors,” Meyers said.
He added neighbors have helped to solve many cases after seeing a suspicious or unknown car in their neighborhood or reported suspicious activity.
Neighborhood Watch is a great way to keep neighbors informed and to keep the lines of communication open with local law enforcement. For those interested in Neighborhood Watch in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, contact (818) 248-3464. For Glendale residents, call (818) 548-4015. For Los Angeles Police – Foothill Division, call (818) 756-8866.