Sunday, April 23, 2017

Knock knock burglary

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Sunday April 23, 2017, 3:12 PM

LASD - Altadena Station, Los Angeles County Sheriff

Jim McDonnell, Sheriff
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Community: Knock knock burglary
Great article by Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News

In the case of knock- knock burglars, for example, most of them are street gang members from South Los Angeles who have "a propensity for violence," said Los Angeles police Lt. Todd Hankel, who oversees the Valley's new Knock Knock Burglary Task Force. Some of these burglars have been armed, he added.

Knock-knock burglars, who tend to operate in small groups, earned the moniker because someone will usually knock on a front door - and in some cases call the residence - to see if anyone is home before breaking and entering from the side or back.

"My recommendation is make your presence known (to burglary suspects) but don't be confrontational," Hankel, who is also commanding officer of LAPD's West Valley detectives, said. "They're trying to avoid detection and avoid confrontation. They want the money, guns and jewelry and then they want to leave the area."

If residents yell "who's there?" or "what's going on?" to such a burglar inside their home, usually they will leave the area to avoid conflict and getting caught, Hankel said. Residents should exit their home after making their presence known and call the police, he added.

Knock-knock burglars usually knock on a door, and if someone responds, will ask if so-and-so is home or just say they have the wrong house and leave, he said.

That's why it's important to respond verbally when someone knocks on your door to alert potential burglars of your presence, and it's best to do so without opening the door to a stranger, said LAPD Topanga Area Senior Lead Officer Sean Dinse.

"There have been many instances ... where a person doesn't know you're home, breaks in anyway, and all of a sudden you have a confrontation," Dinse said.

Some police officers believe that burglars may have avoided the area following Sementilli's Jan. 23 slaying assuming it was "hot" with law enforcement activity. The mobilization of communities online and through neighborhood watch groups, in addition to the new task force, may also be lessening the number of burglaries in that area, officials said.

To the untrained eye, it's not easy to tell the difference between potential door knock burglars who may be casing out your house and solicitors, who also may or may not be legitimate, Dinse said. If someone is on their cellphone at your front door, there's a good chance he or she is on the phone with a group of people looking for a house to burglarize, he said.

Dinse tells residents it's best to have a prepared response to deter potential suspects at their front door or in their neighborhood without being confrontational.

"As ridiculous as it sounds, lead them to believe the police are in the neighborhood, that there's an FBI task force in the area, or that there's a search warrant" for the home, he said.

A resident could say "are you here for the search warrant? The police are coming right now," he said. "If (they think) the police are coming, what are they going to do? They will hightail it out of the area."

It's best to say the police are on their way instead of threatening to call the police, which could provoke an unwanted confrontation and give the impression that they have some time, he added. Dinse said he knows of an instance in which a person was shot at after confronting a guy and girl who were "messing around" in a car.

In a recent Facebook post, Reseda resident Ron Veto recounted the time he found a strange man looking around his elderly neighbor's bedroom after he purportedly needed to use the phone in the front of the house. Veto had dashed inside his neighbor's home after seeing his neighbor talking to a young woman outside and sensing something was wrong. Veto yelled at the strange man to get out, chasing him and his female companion until they hopped into a van that sped away.

"I was just going to confront him and hang onto him, then I realized it was two against one," Veto said in a phone interview. "I'm well-versed in street combat ... and how things can quickly escalate, and how you can be outnumbered in a heartbeat."

Dinse said residents have a right to protect themselves in their homes but cautioned against chasing suspects once they leave the premises because they could be armed. Taking photos and having video, including those from Wi-Fi-based camera systems installed at your door, are among the best weapons to fight these kinds of crimes, he said.

"Taking a picture with your cellphone is more than we can ask because if they are doing something illegal, at least now we have a picture instead of just a description," he said.
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