Thursday, February 11 , 2016, 1:24 pm | Fair 77º

Burglary Victim Gets Lucky but Experience Is a Cautionary Tale for Prevention

As break-ins escalate in Santa Barbara's Mesa and Westside neighborhoods, police step up response and urge precautions

Santa Barbara’s Mesa and Westside neighborhoods have experienced a rash of recent residential burglaries. Although many streets are adorned with neighborhood watch signs, like the Alta Mesa area shown here, there were 14 daytime burglaries in May.
Santa Barbara’s Mesa and Westside neighborhoods have experienced a rash of recent residential burglaries. Although many streets are adorned with neighborhood watch signs, like the Alta Mesa area shown here, there were 14 daytime burglaries in May.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

One Santa Barbara family’s world was turned upside down when thieves entered through their home’s back door and stole $20,000 worth of jewelry, including an heirloom engagement ring.

At 11 a.m. on a Monday, the alarm at an Alta Mesa neighborhood house was triggered just a few minutes after a mother and her children left for an end-of-school-year celebration. Her husband shared their story with Noozhawk on the condition of anonymity.

“The alarm went off the second they entered the house, but they still had time to run upstairs, get what they wanted and get out before the cops got there,” he said.

The burglars only took what could fit in their pockets, including his wife’s engagement ring, which was the biggest blow.

The man said he heard from authorities that it was a common modus operandi for daytime burglaries: strangers knock on doors, then search for an open door or window to gain access if no one answers.

“I had no idea this was going on,” he said. “It’s not to say that this could have been prevented, but we likely would have secured these valuables differently.”

Now wiser to the threat, the man urged people to call police if they see anyone suspicious in their neighborhoods. In this case, burglars went in through the back door, which was accidentally left unlocked.

This family’s experience isn’t an isolated incident.

The Mesa and Westside neighborhoods have been the hardest hit in recent months. In May, 14 daytime and four nighttime residential burglaries were committed there, out of 39 citywide, according to Santa Barbara Police Department records.

Every time police talk about property crimes, the word “opportunistic” comes up. Doors and windows are often left unlocked or open, whether in a building or a car, said police Sgt. Riley Harwood, a department spokesman.

“Traditionally, the common trend has always been residential burglaries during the day when people are at work and commercial buildings at night when they’re closed,” Harwood said.

Police have investigated numerous jewelry thefts lately, perhaps given the high price of gold and proliferation of buyers, he said.

In addition to single-family homes in that area, SBCC students are often preyed on since they have computers and high-tech gadgets and can be laid back about security, Harwood said.

In this particular theft, police recovered some jewelry when the burglars were trying to sell it, and the Alta Mesa resident was able to positively identify the ring and about 80 percent of what was taken.

“We got the most important part,” the homeowner said. “I still can’t believe it. The cops did such an amazing job, and the fact that (the burglars) were apprehended shortly after was just awesome.”

In reports to the City Council, Police Chief Cam Sanchez has repeatedly stated that property crime rates are increasing.

In response, SBPD’s Detectives Bureau has been holding more meetings with neighborhood watch groups and helps start new ones to cope with the growing problem. Although officers have arrested many burglars and some crews of burglars, “they continue to beat us to the punch,” Sanchez said at a recent council meeting.

Click here for specific crime statistics for neighborhoods in the city if Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 06.25.12 @ 02:35 PM

Cops are way overpaid. They spend time harassing the homeless, and it always seems they show JUST A FEW MINUTES TOO LATE to any real, serious crime.
Our money would be better spent enforcing immigration laws and creating for more beds for the mentally ill.

» on 06.25.12 @ 02:36 PM

Most of the time these are related to stealing enough to support a drug purchase. Hopefully there are only a few doing all. Let us see what happens when these perpertaters(?) are brought to justice.

» on 06.26.12 @ 11:15 PM

I will tell you why this is happening. The prisons have been cleared out of all so called non violent crooks such as residential burglars. So we have all the thieves out on the streets as well as no worry about going back to the pen if they are caught. Keeping them locked up was a great bang for the bucks we paid to keep them incarcerated. Thanks Governor Brown.

» on 07.02.12 @ 05:56 AM

hammerman: Might be a good idea to find out how many inmates with residential burglary convictions have been released. Before the state prisoner transfer, most people in SB County jail were there not for crimes against others or victimless crimes, they were there for the crime of violating the conditions of a court order or law related to an arrest and conviction - probation and parole violations, felons in possessions of handguns, gangbangers associating with other ones in violation of a court order, alcohol or other drug use or possession while on probation or parole that was discovered only because the cops were checking up on them…
We really can’t accuse them of having an interest in public safety when they park in taxi only spots in the drunk zone to get more DUI’s and write reports that are totally perjury. Public safety means keeping public safety unions safe. They enforce laws that generate income for SBPD and the city and create PR for SBPD by responding to the nimby or Downtown Business Association crisis of the moment, and like to play Rambo.

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