Group Linked to More Than 80 Commercial Burglaries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of thieves known for smashing windows and fast getaways has burglarized more than 80 businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley since December, authorities said Wednesday.

No one has been hurt in any of the break-ins, in which the thieves have caused more property damage than cash losses, said Lt. Marvin Dixon of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

"What they don't get in amount, they get in numbers," Dixon said.

Authorities said the thieves usually hit the shops late at night or early in the morning, long after the businesses close. They use rocks, bricks or chunks of concrete to break glass doors or windows, then grab money and sometimes cash registers.

"They're in and they're out," Dixon said. "Even if there are witnesses, they may not catch these guys. They are that quick."

Authorities said the thieves have burglarized all types of businesses, from a pharmacy to a coffee shop, mostly along commercial streets and strip malls on Lyons Avenue and San Fernando Road in Newhall and Valencia. Most of the stores do not have alarm systems.

But it seems that security systems are not enough to deter the burglars, who have broken into Valencia Pharmacy in Newhall twice, even though it is protected by an alarm.

Patrick Morton, manager of Valencia Pharmacy, said that when the burglars struck the business the first time last month, they netted about $50 in cash that was left in the register to be used the next business day.

"The alarm went off and the police were here in less than five minutes, but the thieves were gone," Morton said.

The most recent burglary was Monday, when the thieves hit Cambridge Coffee House in Newhall, only to discover that there was no money in the cash register.

"It looked like they took the register outside and slammed it on the ground, picked it up and slammed it again until it opened," said Chris Henderson, a coffee shop employee.

Police said they will catch the thieves through either "sheer blind luck or hard work."

"We leave the lights on, turn on the alarm system, empty the cash register. We have done everything not to make ourself an easy target," said Morton of the Valencia Pharmacy. "But they keep coming back."

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