String of home burglaries in Huntington Beach may be tied to South American theft ring

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Friday, October 21, 2022
Huntington Beach burglaries may be tied to South American theft ring
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Residents living in a Huntington Beach neighborhood are on edge after a string of burglaries, and police suspect the thieves may be tied to a South American theft ring.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Residents living in a Huntington Beach neighborhood are on edge after a string of burglaries, and police suspect the thieves may be tied to a South American theft ring.

For example, a home surveillance camera captured three men running out of Cari Castaneda's Huntington Habour home in April.

"Alarm, cameras, dog signs, gates in front of my house. I thought I had it all locked down and here we are," Castaneda said.

In the video, the suspects jumped into a getaway car and vanished.

"They got in through the second floor window. It was into a bathroom, went into the master bedroom, broke our safes out of the wall, took the safes with them," Castaneda said. "We lost about a quarter of a million dollars in cash and jewelry."

Lisa Rudy's home was hit the exact same way two months before.

"The glass was shattered. There was a very small hole in my upstairs balcony door," Rudy said. "The thieves had walked through that little hole, gone straight to my master bedroom which they proceeded to ransack, steal my safe and other valuables."

Huntington Beach police said in Huntington Harbour there have been nearly 30 break-ins since January of last year.

"In just our neighborhood, in these 30 burglaries, we know there have been millions of dollars taken, millions of dollars," Rudy said.

Home break-ins are a problem across the country.

However, Jennifer Carey, public affairs manager for the city of Huntington Beach, said they haven't see a significant spike in the city.

City data showed in 2019 police reported 167 residential burglaries.

So far this year, 115 have been investigated.

While HBPD can't definitively say these recent burglaries in Huntington Harbour are all tied to a specific group, Carey said they've noticed a pattern connected to South American theft groups.

"Those patterns include break-ins through the second floor window or door. It also includes targeting certain homes that have quite a bit of space in the rear of the property, and we do notice that they tend to use rental cars to fit in with the surrounding area," Carey said.

She said police have increased neighborhood patrols and installed surveillance cameras.

They warn these thieves may be scoping out homes ahead of time.

Here are a few safety tips from the HBPD to protect your house when you are not home:

  1. Turn on exterior lights at night and, if possible, install motion-sensing exterior lights that automatically turn on and off.
  2. Lock all windows, exterior doors, gates and garage doors that provide entry into your property.
  3. Trim back or remove landscaping that provides hiding places around vulnerable doors and windows.
  4. While on vacation, arrange for someone to pick up your mail and mow the lawn. Don't advertise that your home is vacant.
  5. Consider getting a monitored alarm system with audible warnings to scare intruders away. If you have a second-story home, make sure the alarm system is installed upstairs, too.
  6. When you are away from your home, don't announce it on social media, i.e., real-time vacation photos and updates.

Rudy and Castaneda said they will remain vigilant to protect their community.

"It's a terrible feeling to know somebody has been in your space," Rudy said.

"My biggest thing is that I hope it doesn't happen to anybody else," Castaneda said.

Police are looking into the possibility of enforcing temporary street closures to limit the amount of traffic that goes through certain areas.

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