It doesn’t take much to get into the burglary business these days – a $3 window buster, enough nerve (or desperation) to make you do dumb things, and enough gas to get you to Lamorinda.
… and the San Ramon Valley, too, sure – but for now we’ll focus on data compiled by Lafayette Police Chief Eric Christensen and crew. In short, car burglars and auto thieves are hitting pay dirt on a regular basis in Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda – enough so that they’re willing to come back to the same locations time after time despite any fear of being caught.
Christensen, who has a head for numbers, has been watching his go up in the auto crime department of late. He attributes the spike to one thing: People in his community leave all kinds of tempting, easily accessible things in their cars and the burglars are grateful.
NEWS24-680 readers on top of this trend or who have had it happen to them have hammered us for some inside info on who is doing these crimes and how to make it stop. We’ll refer you to a scenario recently learned – the hard way – in Lafayette, and related by one of the thieves themselves:
Christensen and his officers were recently confronted by a series of auto burglaries in the downtown area. On the first night, the crooks got into a restaurant parking, selecting two cars that had items left inside. In the first car, they found a briefcase – and “liberated” it. While returning to the get-away car with their loot, they spotted a second tempting car and, using a window buster, stole a backpack.
The thieves, two men and a “wheel woman,” examined their night’s work while heading back to Oakland, Christensen said. From the backpack, a jackpot. The owner had left three thousand dollars in cash inside the backpack. From the briefcase, a laptop and a wallet filled with credit cards and cash. The crooks threw the briefcase and the backpack out of the car while inside the tunnel. “Keep nothing the cops can trace back to the crime” they said.
Emboldened and happy with the results of their night’s work, the group returned the next night to try their luck a second time – at the same spot. They returned not only to the same lot, but at the exact same time of night. Several more broken windows and several more items stolen. More debris found in the tunnel headed toward Oakland. What the group didn’t count on was that the property owner had installed video cameras covering the parking lot.
After the first night, the property owner provided images of the crimes, the crooks, and a license plate for the suspect vehicle. After the second night, the property owner provided the same information – identifying that it was the same crooks, driving a different car. When the bad buys returned the third night, officers had the license plate numbers and description of their vehicles. The business was also prepared for their return. When the car came into the parking lot, officers were notified immediately. A short time later, the car was stopped and three subjects detained. Sure enough, they were found with a window punch and matched the description of the suspects who committed the prior burglaries.
At midnight, investigators began their interviews of the suspects. One of them gave great insight about their crimes. “This was the second time I came out with the others. I watched as they came home every night with thousands of dollars in cash. I work two jobs and never came home with that kind of money.” The crook told us the others had been stealing from cars in Lamorinda for months. They only targeted cars in Lafayette and Orinda – where people leave “crazy” things in their cars. They were hunting for cash and credit cards. Electronics were quickly sold for whatever they could get that night to get rid of them – as the cops can track them. Anything that has no value is just thrown out the window of the car.
Their car was impounded by the police department and two of the suspects were charged with numerous felonies by the District Attorney’s Office. The third suspect (the pregnant girlfriend of one of the suspects) was released after several days in jail when no charges were filed. She was the registered owner of the car, which she lost.
Will they be back? We’ll see. Apparently there are others like them still out there and lots of easy pickings around for them to steal.