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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 8:21 pm | Mostly Cloudy 49º


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

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.

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