In June 2018, there were eight reported car burglaries in South Pasadena. This June, police statistics show, there were an eye-popping 38.
Though that number dropped down to five in the first three weeks of July, the overall spike in these smash-and-grab break-ins is part of a regional trend that has law enforcement on high alert — with two arrests made this week in South Pasadena, police told the Review.
“It’s everywhere,” Police Sgt. Matthew Ronnie said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s South Pasadena, Beverly Hills or the South Bay. Every city has been hit.”
And Ronnie added this warning: “Leave nothing in your car, and I mean nothing. Not a backpack or a gym bag — nothing. (If you do), you are just asking to be a victim.”
This past Tuesday, South Pasadena police charged a pair of Los Angeles men with auto burglary, possession of burglary tools, prowling, possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia following their arrest near Glendon Way and El Centro Street.
A vehicle parked in the immediate area was found with its window smashed, police said.
Ronnie identified the suspects as Luis Sosa, 28, and Alberto Gomez, 29. He said the two were also found to be carrying methamphetamine and a meth pipe, as well as a Macy’s credit card not belonging to either of them — an aspect police were investigating further.
Ronnie said it was too early to determine if the suspects had a hand in any of the other recent South Pasadena car burglaries.
“They could be related to other auto burglaries in our agency or in other agencies, but it’s too soon to tell,” he said — though he did describe the pair as “not big-time burglars, not sophisticated at all.”
Ronnie also said it’s unlikely the recent burglaries are in any way coordinated. More likely, he said, they are crimes of opportunity being perpetrated by individual bandits merely riding a trend that’s been well-documented on social media.
He added that, during the recent spate of car break-is, many burglars have been using spark plugs, with their hard, porcelain tips, to smash windows — hurling the objects and shattering the glass.
Sosa and Gomez were carrying spark plugs, Ronnie said.
Their arrests came around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, after police received a call from a resident who observed two men wearing baggy clothing and carrying flashlights looking into parked vehicles in the 1100 block of Glendon Way, police said.
When officers arrived, they found the two suspects walking in the area of Glendon and El Centro. Both men were questioned, and the suspicious items were found in their possession, police said.
The suspects were booked at Alhambra City Jail.
South Pasadena Det. Richard Lee, a crime analyst and crime prevention officer, said another arrest was made last month – of an L.A. man on a bicycle who was found to be in possession of property stolen from a burglarized car.
Lee said the majority of the June break-ins occurred between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., with the locations centered on “offshoots of major thoroughfares” such as Fremont Avenue and Huntington Drive, and particularly in areas that abut the City of Los Angeles.
Most of the break-ins netted only small items such as sunglasses, loose coins, tools and backpacks — but in a couple of instances, items of value such as a wallet, a cell phone and an iPad, were stolen, he said.
Police said the most common way thieves broke into cars was by smashing windows, with hatchbacks a particular target, as the content of their trunks is largely exposed.
Like Ronnie, Lee warned that leaving items in plain view, even in a locked car, can be a magnet for thieves to strike.
Last year, according to Lee, South Pasadena had a “huge problem” with unlocked cars being robbed, but now “residents are finally heeding our warning about locking their cars.”
Lee also said that if your car is broken into — even if nothing of significant value is stolen — you should report the matter to police, so they can trace any trends and tracks patterns.
Porch Pirates at Work
Meanwhile, Lee said, thefts of parcels from doorsteps continues to be “a constant thing.”
“It used to be during the holidays there was a big spike, but now it’s occurring throughout the year,” he said.
The latest stats show six such doorstep heists this June compared to one last June.
“There were quite a few, despite (the precautions police tell residents to take),” Lee said.
Police urge people to use shippers’ tracking systems so they’ll know when packages can be expected to be delivered and make accommodations so that deliveries won’t sit unattended for long periods on doorsteps.
Police also say it’s important to pick up packages promptly or have neighbors do so, or even consider having packages mailed to your work if your employer will allow it.
Lee said another tip to battle porch pilferers is to use Amazon lockers, though the nearest one to South Pasadena is in Alhambra.