A businessman of Korean descent returned to his apartment early Thursday to find that his door had been pried open and his apartment ransacked of $200,000 worth of cash and jewelry, police said.
The burglary was the latest and largest in a string of property crimes victimizing Asian residents of the San Fernando Valley. A detective with the Los Angeles Police Department's Asian Crimes Task Force said Thursday that the problem has become so serious that he is calling a community meeting to warn Asian residents in the Valley.
Detective Henry Kim said most of the robberies have been in the Devonshire Division, which includes Porter Ranch, Northridge and parts of Granada Hills. "It's been pretty quiet in North Hollywood," Kim said. "Devonshire has really been rocking and rolling."
The burglary in an apartment house near Lankershim Boulevard and Moorpark Street took place between 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday, when the tenant, the owner of several Los Angeles restaurants, returned after working late, Kim said.
"It was a pretty clean operation," Kim said. "No one saw anyone." The victim was either Korean citizen or a Korean American, he said.
Kim said detectives hope fingerprints left in the apartment will help them catch the thieves, who police say could be responsible for some of the half-dozen or so robberies since January that have hit Asians living in the northern Valley.
December saw a spate of follow-home robberies in the Porter Ranch area, but detectives in February arrested about a half dozen members of the loosely knit gang that committed those robberies, Kim said. Since the new year, there have been roughly a half-dozen home robberies in Devonshire Division, said Lt. Bruce Normandy, who oversees the division's robbery detectives.
"It hits a chord" in victims, Normandy said of home robberies. "When they score, they score big."
Kim said some of the robbers operating in the north Valley are reported to be a unique mixture of Asian and Latino bandits.
Police say Asian home invasion robberies are usually carried out by Asian gang members against other Asians. They say Asian homeowners are considered easy prey because many of them, distrustful of banks, store their money at home.
Kim said he has organized a community meeting at the Northridge United Methodist Church at 7:30 p.m. on May 18 in conjunction with Mad About Rising Crime, a volunteer anti-crime group.
"They've been pretty much a quiet voice," Kim said of Asian Valley residents, who police say have a culturally based reluctance to report crime to police. "Maybe this will encourage them to become active."