A rash of burglaries in Rossmoor has residents on edge and police ramping up efforts to catch thieves who are brazenly breaking into homes in the area.
April and May saw a 44 percent spike in crime in Rossmoor, including several auto thefts and eight home break-ins. The thieves have been getting in through unlocked doors and windows in some cases or using a crowbar in others. While most of the burglaries have been happening in broad daylight, the most recent occurred in the middle of the night when a grandmother was home, babysitting her infant grandchild. The crime spree along with the latest incident has prompted police to reach out to the community for help.
“Within a four-week span of time, there have been eight residential burglaries. To have this happen in such a short period of time is cause for alarm,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Investigator David Purser at a Rossmoor Community meeting Monday night.
Because a 2006 Rossmoor burglary resulted in the severe sexual assault of an elderly woman, sheriff’s officials decided to hold Monday’s community meeting after the latest burglary in which grandmother was home during the break-in.
While there have been multiple witnesses to the various robberies, suspect descriptions remain vague, said Purser.
In one instance, a woman arrived home to find a man in her backyard using a crowbar to break-in. She described the burglar as being a dark-haired Italian or Hispanic man about 5’10, 150 pounds and in his 30s, said Purser. He got away in a blue or silver American Sedan, possibly a Lincoln.
In another incident, a neighbor confronted a would-be burglar attempting to enter an open garage. In that case, the suspect was described as a white male with a goatee, 5’11 and weighing about 200 pounds. That suspect was driving a blue Chrysler, said Purser.
In other cases, the burglars may have been on bikes.
Don Broun thinks the person who recently burglarized his house was riding a bike.
“We were only gone from about 1:15 to 2:30 p.m., so he had to have been watching when we left, but we never even saw him,” said Broun. “There was no forced entry. He came in through our sliding door around back.”
A 26-year Rossmoor resident, Broun said it can be tempting to leave doors unlocked in such a quiet, safe neighborhood. Window installers working across the street noticed a bicycle leaning against Broun’s hedge during the burglary, and the thief took two laptops and some jewelry, leading Broun to believe that the culprit used a bike.
“This is depressing because instead of treating everyone like a human being, you start suspecting everyone,” he said.
Indeed, concerned residents Monday night suggested measures ranging from public video cameras, to check points, to a process requiring all contractors working in Rossmoor to have a permit in their vehicles.
However, the police have other measures in mind.
They plan to increase patrols, conduct undercover operations, and add bicycle patrols as well as night patrols with vehicle headlights off to increase the chance of catching criminals in the act.
They are also encouraging residents to join the neighborhood watch, which is being revitalized, said Dorothy Fitzgerald, the group’s coordinator.
Police are encouraging residents to lock their doors, look out for their neighbors, report anything suspicious, and most importantly, write down the license plate of anyone who seems suspicious. They are also telling residents to ask for sheriff’s department vacation checks when going out of town this summer.
“If you see someone suspicious, someone who looks out of place, please give us a call,” Purser said. “If you go out of town, at least once a day, we can come by and make sure everything is as you left it.”
So far, investigators don’t have reason to believe that all the burglaries are connected, but some of the thefts do have the same modus operandi, said Purser.
Those ones are similar to a recent burglary in the Anaheim. There, a neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the entire incident. In that instance, three men pulled up in a car, pried open a window, and left in less than 5 minutes with $35,000 worth of items. The quick work indicates professionals, who know enough to get in and out before police can respond to an alarm.
Similar burglaries have not been reported in Los Alamitos or Seal Beach lately, Purser said. But Rossmoor isn’t the only community experiencing burglaries right now, said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Monte Houtari.
“These things come in waves,” Houtari said. “The whole north county is getting hit with crime.”
To report suspicious persons or to schedule sheriff’s department vacation checks, call 714-647-7000. To join the neighborhood watch, go to the Rossmoor Homeowners Association website.