UPDATED July 15, 9:02 a.m.: With suspect information, charges, comment from Police Chief Eric Christensen
Lamorinda Patch has been hearing and writing about at least three groups of working the Lamorinda area -- particularly the freeway-ready Highway 24 Corridor.
Local police have remained tightlipped about the crimes, a signal to jaded and grizzled old police reporters that they are working leads, and while we continued to hear from homeowners who had been victimized we waited for a break in the case.
Apparently, it came last week, and not long after a high profile resident fell victim to the House Crackers.
Lafayette City Manager Steve Falk writes that he'd arranged to meet a repairman at his Lafayette home last Tuesday, pulling up to find one of his window screens has been pried off and was laying on his front lawn.
"...so I went through the door expecting the worst," Falk penned. To my surprise, nothing in the house was disturbed except the master bedroom, where there were some clothes scattered on the floor and the bedspread was missing. Really? You broke into my house to steal my bedspread? I mean, yes, the Hawaiian pattern was nice but the Labrador retriever has been shedding lately so there was dog hair on it..."
Humor notwithstanding, the grizzled old reporter knew what was coming next and Falk did not disappoint -- though we're sure he was disappointed when he found his master bedroom had been ransacked by the thieves and his wife's jewelry box taken.
Falk did what everyone does: he called police for backup and he reports that the cavalry came riding in.
"...within fifteen minutes Officer Parker, Detective Pliler, Sergeant Sheils, and Police Services Assistant Fahey arrived. Looking things over, the detective said that the burglar was probably in the house for less than three minutes and used the bedspread to cover up the jewelry box as he left..."
Yes, we thought so. Sometimes these crews use pillow cases to haul away their loot.
Detectives did what detectives do and determined that an unfamiliar black car with suspicious looking people in it had been cruising the neighborhood an hour or so before Falk arrived home. Bells went off and neighborhood camera systems were checked.
"Back at the station, the detective thumbed through files of recent incidents in the same neighborhood and discovered that a woman with a black car had been implicated in a similar crime a couple of weeks earlier just a couple of blocks away," Falk wrote in his daily summary. "They pulled an image of her car and it seemed to match the one on my street."
After some particularly fancy investigative work a warrant was secured and a team of Lafayette, Orinda, and County Sheriff's deputies showed up on the suspects’ doorstep, a home in the 2000 block of Olivera Road in Concord, guns drawn.
With the jig most definitely up the burglary crew attempted to "Dixie," abandoning the house and trying to squeeze through the cordon of officers. Two people were taken into custody, according to Lafayette Police Sgt. Dan Nugent.
Lenny Cabrera, 30, of Concord and Ariana Rivera, 31, of Antioch.
Cabrera was arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property, first degree burglary, second degree burglary, possession of a controlled substance and probation violation. In addition, two bench warrants for vehicle theft and probation violation had been issued. His bail was set at $95,000.
Rivera was arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property, first degree burglary, conspiracy, obstruction/delay of a police officer and probation violation. Bench warrants for possession of stolen property and probation violation had also been issued. No bail has been set for her.
Both Cabrera and Rivera are still in custody, Nugent reported, and the case will be submitted to the District Attorney's Office next week.
Inside the house? Falk said police found his wife Nancy’s jewelry box and his hairy Hawaiian bedspread.
Chief Eric Christensen said Saturday that the group is believed responsible for several burglaries in the Walnut Creek, Alamo, and Lafayette areas.
"The investigation continues and we are currently sorting through property from the case," he wrote. "They were pretty active... we are trying to link them to as many cases as possible."
Along with his officers and backup received from Orinda police and the sheriff's office, Eric credited neighbors with helping to bring this crew to justice.
"The more the residents do to help us prevent and respond to crime, the more successful we all are," he said. "What made this burglary different was not who the victim was, but who his neighbors are. We have had a number of recent cases like this where the neighbors have helped us to solve the crimes - which is exactly what we need to keep the city safe."
Here's hoping the arrests put a dent in the number of local burglaries we've been seeing.
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