What's Bugging You? Burglary during fumigation


"You don't expect it, and it's just heart wrenching, it hurts," said Vera Baptiste.

Baptiste says she never thought when fumigators tented her South Los Angeles home for termites that burglars would go inside a house full of poison.

"They tented the house on Thursday, they broke in on Friday, the termite company called me on Saturday morning to tell me my house has been broken into," Baptiste said.

She says when they entered the home it was a mess. All the drawers had been pulled out, all her jewelry was taken and a small safe was torn apart.

Police told Baptiste the way the house looked, the burglars were here for hours, risking their lives the entire time.

"They said they had to have gas masks," she said. "They were professionals in what they were doing, they couldn't get any fingerprints because they used gloves."

Security expert Joe Petrillo says this type of crime has been on the rise in Southern California, with 20 just in the last few weeks.

"It's totally organized, it has to be," Petrillo said. "It's just not common that these would be occurring one or two at a time versus 20 at a time, so you know it's organized."

Petrillo says in some cases the people doing the fumigation work could be involved, or they might tell others about property you have in your home. Maybe some burglars just see an empty house and opportunity.

"What we also know is that several of them have used gas masks, flashlights and air tanks when they make entry into the homes," Petrillo said.

Petrillo has some advice for protecting yourself against these determined burglars.

"You need to meet the people that are doing the fumigation, and you need to be there when the tent goes up. You need to be there the entire time until the people drive off," he said. He also says you should alert the police to the dates that the tent will be up and request extra patrols.

Baptiste hopes to send out a message to other homeowners so this won't happen to them.

"Take all your valuables with you, or either you sit out in your driveway and watch your house or hire security," she said.

Baptiste says her insurance company has taken care of her losses, but a few personal items will never be replaced. And, she lost the feeling of safety and security in her very own home.

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