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Burglars hit three Claremont businesses. Is it a trend? — PODCAST

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

On Tuesday, January 11, a Sanctuary Coffee barista called the Claremont Police Department to report that an unknown person had broken into the coffee shop.

The single suspect, described as a White adult male, approximately five-foot-11-inches tall entered the property at 4:09 a.m., gaining entry by smashing the glass entry door, according to Steve Gerali, executive director of Sanctuary Claremont, who happened to capture the incident on the shop’s CCTV network.

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The suspect ransacked the nonprofit coffee shop for 140 minutes before fleeing upon CPD’s arrival. He was unable to locate any money, however, since Gerali said he follows the business security tips recommended by CPD. The unsuccessful burglar left over $1,000 in property damage in his wake.

“He did a lot of damage,” Gerali said. “He … came behind the counter, pried open the till but there’s nothing in it. A lot of places keep money in their refrigerators, he did not find any there. He kicked in the stock room door, there’s nothing in there except paper cups if he wanted them.

“He proceeded to go upstairs into our office space and kick that door in as well, and there’s nothing in there but he pulled out all of the drawers, he ransacked some things and that was it,” Gerali said The Sanctuary Coffee founder said he now has to invest money into rewiring the building’s alarm system, which apparently did not trigger during the burglary, and repairing damage to the premises. He said he would much rather give that money to charity, or even to the would-be burglar.

“We have a $1,000 deductible, so this cost us,” he said. “You know that eats into our profit margin so that’s a thousand dollars less that we can give away at another point.”

It’s no way for any city to start any year, but the incident is the third commercial burglary to hit Claremont in 2022.

On January 7 at approximately 10:32 p.m., CPD responded to a burglary report at Rev’d Up Coffee and Classics, 212 W. Foothill Boulevard. Two suspects, described as males with thin builds, “smashed the glass front door, entered the business, stole the cash register, and fled the area,” CPD wrote in an email.

Two days later on January 9, CPD responded to another burglary report, this time at MW Smoke Shop, 444 Auto Center Drive, at approximately 6:35 a.m. The suspects were said to have made off with “large amounts of cigarette related items” from the shop, CPD said in an email.

One suspect was described as a Black man who had medium length braided hair. The second suspect was also a Black man who was wearing a white mask. The third suspect is described as a heavy-set, Black adult male who used a light-colored sweater to cover his face during the crime. The fourth suspect is described as a Black man who wore a full-face ski mask, a sweatshirt and sweatpants, according to CPD.

Anyone with information about the crimes is encouraged to contact CPD at (909) 399-5411.

It’s still unclear whether any of the burglaries or suspects are connected, according to CPD’s Detective Bureau Lieutenant Karlan Bennett. The lieutenant added it’s not plausible to call the recent commercial burglaries a “spike” in crime as they are instead just “three incidents that occurred over a few days.

“We don’t have data that says this date, this time, this season is going to give us more of these types of crimes … especially with commercial burglaries,” Lieutenant Bennett said. “If you look locally, commercial burglaries have been occurring throughout the region over the last several months.”

Lieutenant Bennett said a big factor in the increase in various crimes, including commercial burglaries, can be attributed to guidelines under current L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon.

“I think you’re seeing more crime because we have a district attorney in Los Angeles County where they aren’t filing cases like they used to and there’s an emergency bill scheduled where criminals can be arrested on certain felonies and be released with a citation that day where in the past we would hold them in custody,” Lieutenant Bennett said. “And then they’re getting reduced sentences … when they do get sentenced on these crimes. Or the crimes they’re committing aren’t even getting filed.”

Lieutenant Bennett said the burglars are most likely looking for money or products from the business. He explained that it does little to deter perps when they are not prosecuted.

In 2020, Claremont experienced 108 commercial burglaries compared with 77 in 2019, a 40% increase, according to the most recent CPD statistics released in 2021. There were also 77 commercial burglaries in the city in 2018.

Locations which fall under the commercial burglary category include detached garages, storage facilities, schools and businesses — private, commercial and nonprofit. In 2020, eight schools, 16 detached garages, 20 storage facilities, and 64 businesses were burglarized.

To view the numbers cited in this report or other Claremont crime stats, read the original news story at www.claremont-courier.com.

Businesses owners can take measures to improve their business’s security against potential burglaries including checking their alarm systems, regularly making deposits from the register when appropriate and, if possible, not keeping large sums of money on site. In the event of a burglary, call CPD at (909) 399-5411.

“If somebody wants to break into your business they’re going to try and break into your business. Can business harden their targets to make it harder for thieves? Yes, absolutely they can,” Lieutenant Bennett said.

Business owner Gerali said last week’s burglary at Sanctuary Coffee was “an attack on our community.”

“It’s an attack on our community when somebody breaks into any of our local businesses because this community supports local businesses and small businesses very well,” Gerali said. “I know that we’re not the only ones, but it’s been quite a movement of burglaries along this corridor.”

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