La Cañada residents and exasperated victims of what seems to be yet another uptick in residential burglaries beseeched members of the City Council Tuesday for more enforcement, better response times and any solutions that might turn around a troubling tide.
Speaking in a public comment session before the council's regular meeting, three residents whose homes were recently broken into by burglars using similar methods and means of entry shared experiences they say are becoming all too common in La Cañada and surrounding communities.
Dan Khatchaturian, a resident for the past two decades, said he was burglarized last week only to learn the incident was one of eight that had occurred at around the same time.
"They're very sophisticated," he said of the criminals. "They case the neighborhood, they look for the houses with their lights out. They're targeting the master bedroom because they're hoping there are no motion sensors that will trigger the alarm. We need to do more to get these guys."
J.R. deSouza, a Journeys End Drive homeowner, said he's lived in La Cañada for 13 years and, in that time, has been the victim of three crimes — one incident of mail fraud and identity theft and two home break-ins.
After the most recent burglary, which occurred while he and his family were on a spring break vacation, he began talking more with fellow La Cañadans.
"It's as if the floodgates had opened," he told council members. "One hundred percent of the people with whom I spoke knew someone directly affected or had been affected themselves."
La Cañada Boulevard homeowner Dena Snedden said since moving to La Cañada five years ago to raise her children in a safe community, her family has been the victim of three crimes, including an identity theft that caused "longstanding financial wreckage" and a March 29 burglary during which nearly $25,000 of jewelry was stolen.
"Our home was locked. We had iron gates that were shut. We have an alarm system, and we had a security camera that was on," she said.
She broached the subject of the city forming its own police department, expressing frustration with Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station followup after the last break-in. Snedden said the department took 30 minutes to respond and told her the crew suspected of regularly committing crimes in the area is unlikely to be caught.
"They have told me, personally, that they cannot keep up with the rising crime, that they are outnumbered and understaffed," Snedden added. "We need our own local La Cañada police department. If we had that, I believe we would be safer."
Capt. Chris Blasnek of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, who came to Tuesday's meeting to report March's crime statistics, pointed to recent California legislation that eases penalties for nonviolent offenders and makes it easier for repeat offenders to return to the streets.
"We're getting hit, and it's because of some of the propositions that have passed," he said. "We went through a downward trend for many years, and now we're seeing an upward trend."
Still, the captain vowed to work with residents and city officials to make what he feels is still a relatively safe community safer still.
For the month of March, Blasnek reported four residential burglaries and nine burglaries at businesses or nonresidential structures. There were 13 incidents of larceny thefts and one auto theft.
He compared the first three months of 2017 to those of years past, reporting 17 home break-ins this year to eight last year and 31 in 2015. The number of year-to-date identity thefts is 17, compared to 26 in 2016 and 27 the year before.
"I am going to work with the City Council, and we are going to do the best we can," Blasnek told residents.
City Manager Mark Alexander said he's asked Blasnek to examine the city's deployment of sheriff's resources and see if funding commitments are adequate to address needs. In its 2016-17 budget the city allocated about $3.6 million to public safety and law enforcement, including a $2.3 million base contract with the sheriff's department, equaling roughly one-quarter of its total expenditures.
"[The City Council] has authorized a significant allocation of monies in the budget for directed patrols, so that when we have situations that trend, the captain has at his disposal the resources to put on additional cars, patrol units and undercover units," Alexander said. "We have those resources available to us — we wouldn't have that if we had our own city police department."