Authorities on Thursday said the four alleged burglars arrested Tuesday during a seven-hour search in Glendale are part of a larger network of thieves, mostly members of South Los Angeles gangs that target affluent communities.
Along with the four men arrested Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department has arrested 18 suspects in connection with a rash of door-knock burglaries, officials said at a joint news conference with Glendale police in Panorama City.
“Sometimes you’ll see us, sometimes you won’t, but we’ll always be there,” LAPD Lt. Alan Hamilton said, referring to the department’s undercover and plain-clothes surveillance operations.
The thieves, who represent six crews, work in groups of two to four and often travel in rental cars from one upscale neighborhood to another, LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas said.
In some cases, the thieves carry police radio scanners or monitor police activity in the area, he said.
They operate by knocking on front doors during daytime hours to check if anyone is inside, or peering into windows, Villegas said.
After ensuring no one is home, the thieves force entry and steal whatever valuables they can, including gold, jewelry, electronics and firearms, he said. They then sell the items quickly for cash.
LAPD is working with Glendale and other law enforcement agencies as part of a task force created to identify, arrest and prosecute the network of burglars.
Glendale police have noticed an uptick in residential burglaries in the city’s tony northeast neighborhoods, Glendale Police Capt. Mike Rock said. Glendale police have deployed undercover units to monitor affluent neighborhoods, he added.
Those units helped in Tuesday’s arrest of the four alleged burglars, who were identified as Los Angeles residents Makalle Womack, 18, and Sammy Hodges, 20, as well as Inglewood residents Travis Bryant, 24, and Kevin Childs, 23, Rock added.
The same men could be responsible for 10 other residential burglaries in Glendale, but police are still investigating those cases, he said.
The men pleaded not guilty Thursday to residential burglary and face additional gang enhancement charges, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. Bryant was jailed in lieu of $115,000 bail, while Childs, Hodges and Womack were jailed in lieu of $95,000 bail each.
They are scheduled to appear Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Burbank.
“We do not tolerate this type of criminal activity in the city of Glendale,” Rock said. “If you come into the city of Glendale, you come here to commit acts of criminal behavior, we are aggressively going to pursue you.”
Law enforcement officials advised residents to ensure their homes and valuables are secure. And if the front door is knocked, they urged residents who are home to make their presence known, even if they don’t want to open the door.