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Thieves target tourists at studio

Ben Godar

Several cars parked on the street outside NBC studios were broken

into recently, and police say the culprits are an organized group of

thieves who target tourists.

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Burbank Police Sgt. Scott Wilson said a loosely affiliated network

in Orange County has targeted rental cars parked around the studio

for the past several years. Tourists frequent NBC for studio tours

and tapings of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

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The thieves, who also strike at places like the Los Angeles Zoo

and Universal Studios, take whatever valuables they find in the car

and sell them in Mexico, he said.

The crimes come in periodic waves, which usually stop when police

increase patrols in the area, Wilson said. In 2001, he said more than

100 thefts occurred in the area, sometimes as many as 20 in a month.

But he said the number of thefts has declined recently.

“We haven’t had any for quite a while, then we get five in one

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day,” he said of the thefts last week. “We don’t have the resources

to do 24-hour surveillance.”

Surveillance in the area has led to seven arrests in the past

year, but police said when one thief is caught, another one moves in.

Wilson said those who are arrested rarely serve much of a sentence

because the tourists they victimize are reluctant to travel back to

Burbank to testify in a trial.

The thieves also target tourists because they often have cameras

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and other valuables in their cars, he said.

NBC security officials have called police when they see someone

breaking into cars, but Sgt. Bruce Speirs said the thefts occur off

their property in areas so far from the gates that it is difficult

for security personnel to see.

Jack O’Neill, vice president of facilities at NBC, said the studio

is doing what it can to help police.

“These guys are very good at what they do,” Wilson said. “They’re

so quick and so hard to catch.”


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