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‘It appears the plan is working’: Wave of La Jolla burglaries ebbs after increased police efforts

Smashing windows has been a method of entry in recent La Jolla home break-ins.
(Courtesy photo)

The continuing efforts of the San Diego Police Department to deter what has been described as a “sophisticated crime ring” targeting La Jolla and other local areas seem to be working, with no burglaries of a certain style taking place in recent weeks, police and others say.

Last month, a string of home burglaries in La Jolla’s Muirlands neighborhood was linked to a South American crime ring. As a result, the Police Department’s Northern Division deployed additional resources to the area, including plainclothes officers and a detective on a task force to follow leads. Police held a community conference Jan. 21 to announce their efforts.

San Diego Police Department says 56 residential burglaries have occurred in the past six months in La Jolla — 18 believed connected to the ring.

Since then, the “Northern Division has no new cases to report, and it appears the plan is working in the short term,” said Lt. Adam Sharki. “The investigation into the offenders is still very active. Thank you to the community for their vigilance, tips and leads.”

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, told the La Jolla Community Planning Association last week that “there have been no robberies or burglaries since that meeting. The police are receiving a ton of information from the residents in the area, and they say it has been most helpful.”

Resident Emmett Holden, whose home was broken into in January, said he also has not heard of any recent break-ins in the neighborhood.

San Diego police Capt. Scott Wahl addresses a group of La Jolla residents at a community conference Jan. 21.
San Diego police Capt. Scott Wahl addresses a group of La Jolla residents, mostly from the Muirlands area, at a community conference Jan. 21.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Police Capt. Scott Wahl said Jan. 21 that there had been 56 residential burglaries in La Jolla in the previous six months, with the peak from November to January. Eighteen were believed connected to the crime ring, Wahl said. Several of the burglaries occurred in the Muirlands neighborhood.

Similar crimes have been reported elsewhere in San Diego County, including Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Poway, 4S Ranch, Rancho Santa Fe, Torrey Highlands, Del Mar Mesa, Black Mountain Ranch and other areas.

Burglars targeting master bedrooms and closets looking for high-end jewelry, handbags, cash and watches, officials said.

SDPD Community Relations Officer Ariel Del Toro told the Bird Rock Community Council last week that “our division has been very diligent in trying to apprehend these suspects.”

“It is believed to be a South American theft group that is coming into the country legally and are targeting areas where there is a lot of wealth,” she said.

The thieves are “younger Hispanic men and women, dressed in expensive clothing, driving high-end cars, wearing cross-body bags, which is unique to this group,” Del Toro said.

She added that while the department has received home surveillance footage, most of it does not capture the back of residences, where many break-ins have taken place. The department encourages residents to expand the reach of their surveillance or add motion-activated lights, she said.

Representatives of the San Diego Police Department addressed a recent increase in vandalism at businesses along La Jolla Boulevard while residents expressed concern about insufficient lighting and safety issues it presents during the Bird Rock Community Council’s first meeting of the year Feb. 1.

Police Lt. Rick Aguilar said previously that the burglars “do their homework; they are sophisticated in their surveillance. They are … watching when you leave your home.”

“They will go to the second floor, either with patio furniture or by scaling the wall,” he said. “They are going to the second floor because, in many cases, the alarm system is not active on the second floor. They target the master bedroom, master bathroom, taking jewelry that is left out on the counters and dressers. They have gone into closets and safes.” ◆