Thirty-four home break-ins in 35 days: One O.C. city grapples with crime wave

North Lake Park, in the Woodbridge community, in Irvine.
The Irvine Police Department recently reported in a Facebook post the city had experienced 34 burglaries in a 35-day time span, in various neighborhoods. Above, a photo of North Lake Park in Irvine’s Woodbridge community.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, March 27. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

Last fall, Irvine proudly proclaimed itself the nation’s safest city for the 18th year. But after it experienced 34 residential burglaries over just 35 days this year (Feb. 9 to March 14), our colleague at the L.A. Times, Andrew J. Campa, wondered aloud in a news story published last week if boasting about being the safest city was really appropriate.

To be fair, if one reads carefully the Oct. 19, 2023, pronouncement on the city’s website, it says the safest from violent crimes, which are in a different category than burglaries. Here’s the wording: “Compared to information released Monday by the FBI, Irvine has the lowest per capita violent crime rate of any city in the nation with a population of 250,000 or more,” referring to 2022 data that had just been released.


But still, 34 home burglaries in such a short time span this year might ring alarms among the 300,000 or so good people of Irvine who reside in the picturesque planned neighborhoods that comprise the city.

Campa learned of the many recent break-ins via something the Irvine Police Department posted on Facebook March 16. “Burglary Awareness: Over the past 35 days, there have been 34 residential burglaries in Irvine. One trend we are seeing is suspects knocking down or disabling cameras. The second is suspects climbing to the second story and entering through a window or door. Please call us if you see suspicious people in your neighborhood or walking in open spaces behind homes.”

The reporter is apparently not the only one who spotted that post, as a few day later the Irvine Police Department put out a follow-up statement, also on Facebook, to reassure its denizens.

“Maintaining the safety of our city is at the center of everything we do,” Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent stated in the post. “We are committed to using proactive policing strategies, while leveraging technology and public communication to identify and arrest criminal offenders.”

Seven of the 34 burglaries appear to have been undertaken by professional crews, Campa learned from the Irvine PD. Three other thefts were classified as “unique circumstance” since the perpetrator had approved access into the residence as a guest or service provider.

“There were also more garage burglaries, 18, than break-ins into living spaces,” the reporter noted.

A police spokesperon told Campa the burglaries happened citywide at varied times of the day. None of the burglars were armed, and no injuries were reported.

Despite a crime wave that raised eyebrows, Irvine Police noted that residential burglaries are down over 15% compared to last year at this point. So, while their initial Facebook post on the 34 burglaries might have alarmed people, maybe things aren’t as bad as they seemed after all. And they may well be looking up.

This past Saturday, according to City News Service, Irvine police arrested three men from Chile. They are accused of being part of an international organized crime ring carrying out residential burglaries. How about that for quick police work?

“Officers were conducting surveillance at about 6:50 p.m. Friday in the Turtle Rock and Shady Canyon neighborhoods to address residential burglaries when they noticed a suspicious vehicle in a parking lot, according to the Irvine Police Department,” CNS reported.

An officer conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle, which was occupied by three men, as it drove away from the lot. “The men were not from the area and appeared to have no reason to be in Irvine,” police said. “Several items consistent with burglary tools were in the vehicle. In addition, the men were in possession of pet deterrent, shoe covers, gloves, and masks,” the police department statement continued. “Based on the totality of circumstances, the trio appeared to be casing the area to commit residential burglaries and were arrested for conspiracy to commit burglary, providing false information to a police officer, and possession of burglary tools.”

So that’s three down in the ongoing battle against the “burglary tourists” that plague some Orange County neighborhoods and other well-heeled areas of the Southland. “Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer has aggressively prosecuted South American thieves and sued the federal government for failing to disclose its negotiations with Chile over visa requirements for travelers,” The Times reports. “He has called for measures to stop criminals from entering as tourists.”

Maybe one day we’ll be reporting Irvine is the most burglary-free city in the nation. That’s something to aspire to, anyway.


Chart shows tuberculosis cases have been rising each year since 2020. In 2023, there were 2,113 cases in California.
The rise in tuberculosis cases in Orange County, California’s third most populous, jumped 20% between 2022 and 2023. Above, a chart shows the increase in TB cases in the state each year since 2020.

• Orange County is among the Southern California counties experiencing the highest per capita rates of tuberculosis, according to this report in The Times. In October 2022, the World Health Organization reported the number of people infected with tuberculosis, including the kind resistant to drugs, had risen globally for the first time in years. The rise in TB cases in Orange County has been especially pronounced recently, jumping 20% between 2022 and 2023; in L.A. County, cases rose by about 4% over the same time, according to local data. According to state data, Orange County’s per capita TB case rate is 10% higher than L.A. County’s.

• Although prior to taking a vote they received more than 600 letters from the public, most of them against the idea, the Huntington Beach City Council decided on a 4-3 vote last Tuesday night the city would seek bids to privatize library management services. It was a heated meeting, with people in the audience shouting “Shame!” after the vote was taken. The disgruntled audience members got under the skin of Councilman Tony Strickland, who, according to the news report, stood up and walked off the dais, saying, “I’m not going to put up with that s**t anymore.” A city staff report noted Maryland-based Library Systems & Services, for which former H.B. Councilman Mike Posey now works as a regional sales executive, approached City Hall late last year about operation of its public libraries, claiming it could save the city about $1 million per year.

• After obtaining a court order for the return of nearly $1 million in product seized during a raid last September on two Costa Mesa legal cannabis businesses, the owners of Se7enleaf received the goods Thursday, according to this Daily Pilot report. CMPD and city employees trucked more than 100 pounds of cannabis flower, boxes of oil cartridges and vaporizers along with documents, devices and security equipment held in police storage to Se7enleaf’s Cadillac Avenue facility. The hand-off came nearly a month after owners Michael Moussalli and Matteo Tabib reached a settlement agreement with the city, whose attorneys had been mounting an offense against what they believed was illegal commerce taking place at the site.

• Last July, Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, both ardent supporters of former President Trump, sued Anaheim and Riverside, along with several advocacy groups alleging they conspired to infringe on their free speech rights by pressuring venues to cancel a rally in 2021. On Friday, The Times reports, a federal judge ruled Gaetz and Taylor Greene can move forward with their suit. “We will win these important free speech cases against California cities Riverside and Anaheim and the insane left!” Greene wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Then we will return to CA and hold America First rallies inviting everyone in California that hates what the Democrats have done to their state and our country!”

• An “atmospheric river” bringing rain is forecast for the Orange County coast and inland areas starting Friday night and continuing through Sunday, the National Weather Service says. Highs are expected to be in the 60s during the day and drop into the 40s at night. “The timing and intensity of the precipitation remain in flux, but ... regardless of the exact track, cooler temperatures, gusty onshore winds and widespread precipitation continue to appear likely for the weekend,” the NWS stated.


Tony Lam has been missing since the early morning hours of March 15.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is seeking public assistance to locate a man who was kidnapped from his Midway City home. Authorities say 61-year-old Tony Lam has been missing since the early morning hours of March 15, and they believe two suspects forcefully took Lam from his home located in the area of Hunter Lane and Madison Avenue.
(Orange County Sheriff)

• Orange County sheriff’s investigators were asking for the public’s help late last week to find a 61-year-old man who authorities say was kidnapped by two men outside his home in Midway City on March 15. The victim, Tony Lam, had arrived home shortly after midnight after spending time at LV Restaurant & Lounge in Westminster and the 171 Sky Restaurant in Garden Grove when he was confronted by a masked man in his driveway, according to the sheriff’s department, and was taken away. Authorities arrested two men — Nhan Nguyen, 49, and Phi Nguyen, 53 — on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, but they could not find Lam. Anyone with information is being asked to contact Orange County Sheriff Dispatch at (714) 647-7000. Anonymous tips can be provided through Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

• A man is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on charges of torturing and raping his wife in Newport Beach. Kai Ni, 42, was charged March 14 with torture, kidnapping to commit rape, corporal injury on a spouse, rape and forcible oral copulation, all felonies.

• An SUV crashed into a wall early Monday morning at Rosecrans Avenue and Gilbert Street in Fullerton. Its driver, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders, CNS reported. The gray 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan was speeding northbound on Gilbert just prior to smashing into the wall at 12:32 a.m., according to Fullerton police.

• Orange Coast College reported that someone apparently stole an Andy Warhol screen print, “Mao,” from its gallery. The 1972 artwork depicting Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, valued at $50,000, went missing from the Frank M. Doyle Art Museum sometime earlier this month. Campus police and the Costa Mesa Police Department are investigating the theft.


Translator Ippei Mizuhara stands next to Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani.
Ippei Mizuhara stands next to Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani and translates during an interview at Dodger Stadium on Feb. 3. The Los Angeles Dodgers fired Ohtani’s interpreter last week over allegations of illegal gambling.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

• Did you see the alleged betting scandal involving Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter coming? That was a shock, even to former Angel star Ohtani himself, he told reporters on Monday. On Tuesday night (after deadline for today’s newsletter), Ohtani was scheduled to play at Angel Stadium as a Dodger for the first time in the conclusion of the three-game exhibition Freeway Series, according to Dodger manager Dave Roberts. It was the fourth time he would face the team with which he spent his first six seasons in the major leagues. The Dodgers lost to the Angels 6-0 Monday but beat the Halos 5-3 on Sunday.

• In other coverage related to the Angels, Times sportswriter Mike DiGiovanna takes a look at how losing Ohtani might actually offer at least one bright side: Expectations for the team won’t be as high as they were before he left. “I guess the narrative on the outside is that we’re kind of forgotten about now that Ohtani is not here,” Angels pitcher Patrick Sandoval said. “There are no high expectations of us from the media and the fans and baseball in general.”

• Ireland’s Padraig Harrington holed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to win his first Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club in windy conditions. Harrington, 52, who won his seventh PGA Tour Champions event overall, finished at 14 under par. “This is the great thing about the Champions Tour, it allows us to relive our past glories,” Harrington said. “We get to hit shots where we feel anxious, we feel nervous, we feel excited. And it doesn’t change, when you’ve got a putt to win or a shot to win, you don’t want to mess up in front of people.”

• March Madness: No. 4 seed Gonzaga overcame a slow start to roll past UC Irvine 75-56 in the first round of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament Saturday, The Times reported. The Anteaters were in their first NCAA tournament since 1995.

• In Battle of the Bell action played in Anaheim Stadium last Wednesday, Costa Mesa High School’s baseball team scored six times in the final two innings to run away to an 8-2 victory over arch-rival Estancia High. This fifth meeting within the Angels’ annual “Halo Classic” series involving local high schools went Costa Mesa’s way for the first time, but it doesn’t count in the Orange Coast League standings, the Daily Pilot reported.


A newborn red-tailed hawk, rescued from a nest on power lines, waits for a feeding.
A newborn red-tailed hawk, rescued from a nest on power lines, waits for a feeding at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

• The Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center is gingerly caring for some newly arrived baby red-tailed hawks, who first came to the center a few weeks ago as speckled eggs. The eggs’ need for a new home was learned after a biologist who’d been called by a utility agency doing work in Aliso Canyon retrieved them from a nest perilously positioned on a power pole.

• The legendary early 20th-century Olympic swimmer and surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku is being celebrated this year with an art exhibit titled “Duke’s Dream Came True: Surfing’s Road to the Olympics” at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. The exhibit includes 16 story panels as well as 18 original artwork pieces from figures also renowned in the surf culture world, according to the Daily Pilot’s feature story on the show.

• American Legion Newport Harbor Post 291 is marking its centennial this year. It was founded by a handful of people in 1924, first in a building they called the “Hut,” and has grown since then to have more than 8,000 members across its three entities, which also include an auxiliary and Sons of American Legion. Last Saturday it held a dual-purpose ruck march from the Huntington Beach Pier to Post 291’s headquarters in Newport Harbor to bring awareness to veteran suicides and to serve as a fundraiser for the post’s charitable endeavors on behalf of veterans and their families.


A group of cosplayers dressed as characters from the Pac-Man video game during the 2023 Wondercon.
A group of cosplayers dressed as characters from the famous Pac-Man video game gather during the Wondercon 2023 show in Anaheim. This year’s event runs Friday through Saturday.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

WonderCon takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center this Friday through Sunday. Cosplay, panels, a large selection of activities and entertainment and more than 900 vendors. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. To get an inside look before you go, check out the TimesOC feature story on the event that was published over the weekend.

• Crossroads of the West Gun Show (the self-proclaimed “Big One”) returns to the OC Fair & Event Center this weekend. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $22; parking $12. More details and a link to buy tickets can be found here.

• “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” will be marked Saturday at the Balboa Island Museum, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all veterans, families and friends are invited. There will be a special Vietnam veterans lapel pinning ceremony, and coffee and donuts will be served. The museum is located at 210 B Marine Ave.

• The second annual “Egg-Cellent Adventure” will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Easter Sunday at Centennial Park, 3000 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana. Families are invited for a day of egg hunts (for kids up to 10 years old, bring your own basket), inflatables and a petting zoo. From 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Santa Ana Lions Club will serve up a pancake breakfast for $5 per person.


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