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Home burglaries have Claremont residents on high alert

Claremont residents have been buzzing about the amount of residential burglaries that have plagued the city since the beginning of the year.

Many people believe that the passing of Proposition 47, a referendum that redefined some nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors rather than felonies, and the implementation of AB 109, the so-called “realignment” legislation that ultimately results in the early release of some inmates, has increased low-level crimes in the community.

Although neighborhood watch groups and social media have brought local crimes to the forefront of our minds, leading to the impression that crime is on the rise, data provided by the Claremont Police Department challenges that assumption. The first quarter of 2015 shows that there has been no increase in residential burglaries from the same period the previous year. In fact, the numbers show a slight decrease from 2014.

                        2015           2014

January              6                 9

February           19               19

March               18                11

April                   9                15

Total                 52                54

What has changed from year to year is just how these thieves operate.

“We’re seeing some pretty sophisticated groups out there,” says Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper. “Cell phone groups [a team of thieves connected via mobile] will come into a community, drop off three or four guys and the car will sit on the outside so it’s really hard to catch them. We’ve spent $25,000 in overtime putting out extra people—in plain ca

rs as well as black and whites—trying to catch folks who are stationary as well as patrols in certain areas where we think they are going to hit. We’ve been successful in catching a couple, but it’s not just one group.”

No doubt about it, burglars are getting increasingly brazen as evidenced in the COURIER police blotter. They’ve proved willing to strike at any time of day and every day of the week, using various methods to gain entry to a residence. Sometimes thieves break a window or a sliding glass door or, more aggressively, kick in the front door to a home.

On March 26, a resident on the 3900 block of Northampton Avenue reported that two black male adults broke into the residence by kicking in the front door. At the time of the home invasion, a 20-year-old male resident was home with his headphones on. He heard two loud bangs and came to the front of the residence, where he saw two suspects fleeing the location. An unknown vehicle was heard leaving northbound from the location. The would-be thieves were never caught.

Although some criminals get away with their crimes, the vigilance of homeowners and residents has been an asset to police in leading to their capture.

On April 9, Claremont police caught the bad guys thanks to the keen eye of a homeowner following a burglary in progress at her residence. Officers responded to the 1000 block of Pomello Drive at 3:20 p.m. after the victim arrived home and saw the door to the garage was open. She called into the residence and a male came walking out holding an iPad, telling her he was a contractor doing work and then walked past her as she entered the home. At that point, the resident realized her home had been burglarized and later reported over $250,000 in jewelry stolen. The victim told police she saw a car backed in at the northeastern portion of her property and provided a description of the male and female suspects and their vehicle that would lead police to an arrest.

During routine patrol the following day, a Claremont officer spotted the vehicle on the 400 block of Auto Center Drive and followed it as it entered eastbound on the 10 freeway from Indian Hill Boulevard, The female driver, Esther Setiawan, 27, and male passenger, Angelo Barsotti, 42, were stopped by police, detained at the scene and arrested for residential burglary following identification from the homeowner. Property from the Pomello burglary as well as others was located inside the vehicle. Both suspects had prior arrests for burglary, forgery and other offenses.

On April 18, alert residents again helped Claremont police who arrested 29-year-old Ryan Coon, a transient who burglarized a home on the 300 block of West Harrison Drive. A witness saw the burglary in progress and then chased the suspect while nearby residents called 9-1-1. Claremont police set up a perimeter and a K-9 unit from the Pomona Police Department as well as a helicopter from the Ontario Police Department that arrived to assist. After an approximate 45-minute search, Mr. Coon was located hiding beneath a house on Sixth Street and was arrested.

Claremont police credited the observations and quick phone calls of Claremont residents in aiding in the suspect’s capture.

“You would not believe how many people call us after the fact,” Chief Cooper said. “Even if it turns out to be nothing, we’d rather us come out than come out after the fact and have someone be victimized.”

The Department on Homeland Security’s campaign, “If you see something, say something,” applies to local law enforcement, and alert residents play an integral role in keeping the community safe.   

“If a resident sees something suspicious or out of the ordinary, call the police and let us come out and figure out whether it is or isn’t, because that’s the only way. Most of the time when we catch these people, it’s because a resident was paying attention,” says Chief Cooper. “Everybody has that sixth sense that something is wrong, and they need to listen to it.”

Be proactive

To prevent your home from being burglarized, there are several steps you can take to deter burglars or make it difficult for them to break in.

1) Lock all your doors, windows, garages, sheds and vehicles when you leave your home or go to bed to make it difficult for burglars to enter without attracting the attention of others. Put locks on your gates because burglars are going into the backyard to stay out of view, but they don’t want to have to hop a fence.

“We’re still getting people who are leaving their cars unlocked in the driveways,” Chief Cooper says. “My wife will tell you, I’m a freak at night. Before I go to bed, if the cars are in the driveway—not the garage—I turn the alarm on. I check the front doors and sliders and make sure everything is locked. I worry just as much as residents because five of the homes that have burglarized are within two blocks of my own house.”

2) Install motion-sensor lighting outdoors. Outdoor motion lighting will startle a thief or burglar outside your home and will likely send them elsewhere. Be sure to install your security light high enough and out of reach so it cannot be tampered with or purchase a vandal-proof model.

3) Install a home alarm system. “People should get alarm systems and use them. If they have the money to get cameras, that’s great. It helps police,” explains the chief. “Dogs are always helpful, because burglars try to avoid dogs. They still bark at people they don’t know.” 

4) Teach children what to do if someone comes to the door and you’re not home. If you have a kid that stays home or is sick, Chief Cooper recommends that you prep the kids ahead of time so they’ll know what to do. “They don’t have to answer the door but they should say through the door that they aren’t interested. At least the bad guy knows someone is home and they’re going to leave. If they persist, call police.”

5) Perform routine tasks and clean up your property on a regular basis to show you are occupying your home. Collect newspapers from your driveway, empty your mailbox regularly and pick up discarded trash that has landed in your yard. Trim bushes so that there is a clear view to the doors and windows around your home. If a burglar can’t find cover, they are less likely to break in.

6) Don’t leave valuables visible in your car. Recreational users of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, particularly those who park at Evey Canyon, are at risk for theft. “Thieves know that if cars are there, their drivers are going to be up there for at least an hour or more while people are hiking. They look for purses on the floorboards so people have got to secure stuff in their trunk or, at the very least, don’t take your purse with you,” Chief Cooper advised. “If you’re hot and sweaty, you’re probably going to go home and take a shower anyway. Just have your driver’s license, your cell phone and your cash. If they can break into your car, they can get into your trunk.”

While the mission of the Claremont Police Department is to serve and protect, remaining alert, reporting suspicious activity and being a good neighbor is the responsibility of the entire Claremont community.

“I could add five more cops tomorrow or I could have 100 cops, that doesn’t mean we are going to be a crime-free community,” Chief Cooper said. “Even if we get crime levels low, it really takes that partnership between the community and the department to make it work.”

Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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