Westchester Burglaries on the Rise: How to Protect Yourself and Your Home

At the Neighborhood Council of Westchester / Playa meeting on April 4, Los Angeles Police Department Burglary Detective Robyn Salazar provided residents with a crime update and encouraged them to stay vigilant against a new wave of burglars who are seeking soft targets.  Burglaries have increased significantly since the passage of Proposition 47, she said, because burglars who used to get as much as seven years in prison for their crimes now find themselves back on the streets in a matter of months.

Salazar said her No. 1 issue in the area is the recent influx of crews of gang members working together along Manchester Avenue in Westchester and Playa del Rey, scouting potential burglary targets, knocking on doors to make sure no one is at home and then, burglarizing the home – sometimes leaving a location with more than $100,000 in cash, jewelry and other items.

“When I talk to the ones we catch, they say they choose this area because you have beautiful homes with lots of nice stuff,” Salazar said. “You’re close to freeways, close to bus stops, and I’ll tell you that if they continue to succeed, they will continue to come back.”

Salazar said 50 percent of the burglaries are occurring between 5 and 9 p.m. and many of the other burglaries are taking place in the middle of the night, a scary thought for many people who are typically home during those times.

Still, Salazar said there are many things homeowners can do to harden the target against this latest band of burglars, who, she said, are usually in their 20s and affiliated with gangs.

“They start by driving around and scouting locations,” she said. “They look for open doors and windows, alleys next to homes, second floor windows or bathroom windows that are open. Probably the biggest deterrent is an audible alarm.”

Salazar said an alarm that makes a loud sound if someone breaks or opens a window or door goes a long way in chasing would-be burglars away.

“They either leave immediately or grab something quick and leave rather than taking their time to collect items from throughout the house,” said Salazar, who added that silent alarms are far less effective since they get routed to an alarm company and then to the police department.  “By the time we get there, they have taken everything.”

Some additional observations by Salazar, who has interviewed scores of burglars, include the fact that burglars hate houses with big dogs. She also said burglars will use your own dollies, ladders, so items like that should be secured rather than being left outside or in a relatively easy to access shed in the back or side yard.

She suggests putting a stick in window and sliding glass door frames to make it difficult to open and forcing burglars to break the glass in order to enter the home. It is important, too, to make sure any alarm system is tripped by broken glass, not just by the opening of the door or window.

Salazar said residents should be sure to secure doors and windows even when they are home.

 “If someone comes to your door, don’t pretend you’re not home, just tell them you’re not interested and don’t open the door,” she said. “Otherwise, they may think you’re not there and break in while you are home. That’s a scary situation.”

Salazar said the Ring system, which records video of those who come to the front door, works well to get footage and help police identify burglars, but that effort must be coordinated with the filing of a police report if a crime does occur.

Salazar recounted a recent incident in which footage from a Ring system allowed police to identify a woman who helped break into a home, but was rendered useless because the resident never reported the crime.

“If you are a victim, be sure to file a report,” she said. “Posting about it on social media doesn’t equal a police report.”

Above all, Salazar encouraged residents to call the non-emergency number 1-877-ASK-LAPD if they see anything unusual in their neighborhood and to, of course, dial 9-1-1 if they observe a crime in progress.