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Police believe ‘casers’ are robbing homes in Bird Rock

Because soliciting and residential burglaries continue in Bird Rock, San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser attended Bird Rock Community Council’s (BRCC) monthly meeting, March 3 at Voce Del Mar restaurant, to answer questions and provide tips on how to handle the crimes.

In the month leading up to the meeting, two burglaries took place during the day in Bird Rock, where items including small electronics and jewelry were stolen from homes. One reason for the daytime intrusions, Hesselgesser said, is that burglars want to “get in and get out with as little resistance as possible. They don’t want you to be there, they don’t want to confront you, so they case the house and find the best time to strike — when the resident won’t be there.”

San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser shares tips about residential burglaries.
San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser shares tips about residential burglaries.

Someone “casing” a neighborhood will observe houses to watch for habits and schedules. Some pretend to be selling something to justify knocking on a door to look inside or see if anyone is home.

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In one incident, the victim believes her home was cased because it was burglarized while she was out walking her dog.

Hesselgesser recommends those working from home, run their errands at different times every day. “If you go to the post office at the same time each day, you might only be gone for an hour, but if someone has been watching you, they know they have an hour to get into your house,” he said. “They will usually grab small electronics or things that are easy to get away with.”

He added that burglars often know what residents consider clever hiding places — including hiding items of value in a sock drawer and keeping house-keys under a rock or on a doorframe. He advised using alternative spots.

If you are home

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Hesselgesser said if residents are home and someone suspicious knocks on the door, let them know there is someone in the house. “If you don’t want to open the door, say through the door that you are there, ask who it is, and tell them you’re not interested (in whatever they might be selling). If you don’t, they will think the house is vacant,” he said.

In addition to phony salesmen, a common scam is for intruders to work in tandem, posing as city employees or inspectors, during which time one will get around to the back of house and the other will distract the homeowner. This tactic is especially used to target elderly people, Hesselgesser said, adding, “If someone comes to your house unannounced, do not let them in, ask what company they’re from and call that company to verify.”

In the Hesselgesser home, when a stranger comes to the house unannounced, he grabs a smartphone with video recording capabilities, and pretends to be on a phone call, but actually records the exchange.

“I’ll even say ‘hang on one second’ as I’m going to the door, so they think I’m on the phone,” he said during a demonstration, and turned his phone screen toward himself, with the camera pointing away toward the suspect. “That way I’ve got the whole situation on video.”

If you are not at home

The BRCC Neighborhood Watch chair said that in local robberies, when the resident was not home, an intruder entered through unlocked back doors or open windows. “Always lock your doors and windows,” she said, advising that padlocks be placed on any gates.

She also suggested writing down serial numbers for electronics and taking photos of jewelry and valuables, so should they be stolen, police have documentation of what to look for. She recommended that information not be stored on a computer, which could also be stolen.

Should you observe something when your neighbor is not home, the Neighborhood Watch chair said to write down a detailed description of the person and what they were doing, and let your neighbor and police know.

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Hesselgesser said, “If you see something that needs police attention, call us at (619) 531-2000. Even if we can’t make it to that call, we have it recorded that there was a report about that area or situation.”

San Diego Police non-emergency line: (619) 531-2000

■ The next Bird Rock Community Council meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 at Bird Rock Oyster & Sushi Bar, 5752 La Jolla Blvd.