Sheriff's dept. says 21 looting reports filed
Last updated 11/8/2007 at Noon
Being evacuated was rough enough for residents during the Fallbrook (Rice Canyon) Fire, but when some returned to discover their homes had been looted by thieves, it was unspeakable.
To date, Detective Sergeant Dave Nemeth says 21 fire-related thefts have been reported since the fire began.
“These include residential burglaries and some specific looting charges,” said Nemeth. He adds that the majority of the cases have adequate evidence for officers to begin an investigation, but some don’t.
“We are waiting for the return of fingerprint analysis,” Nemeth said.
Current reports indicate two looting-related arrests and five additional arrests for other related charges best described as preventative in nature.
“These were people who were contacted who were moving around in town during the evacuation who had no business being here,” said Nemeth. “They were arrested on other charges.” Nemeth confirmed that all of these cases have been assigned to detectives.
In Poet’s Square, a residential community off South Mission Road, a family returned from the evacuation to a ransacked home. “Our place was completely trashed,” said one victim, who asked to remain anonymous.
This family followed the evacuation instructions, departing on Monday afternoon and returning on Friday. However, a neighbor returning home earlier in the week sensed something out of the ordinary at the victim’s home. This neighbor contacted the sheriff’s department, which responded immediately.
“[Deputies] came up with guns drawn, walked through my house and whoever it was was not there anymore,” said the victim. Shortly afterward, it was confirmed that the home had been looted.
“[Deputies] told my neighbor that when we got home to call the sheriff’s department so the incident could be reported and recorded,” said the victim. When the evacuation order was lifted, the victim called the sheriff’s department. When they arrived home, the officers were there as well.
The family said they were shocked with the abominable condition of their home.
“[Looters] removed every single solitary drawer in the house and dumped the contents onto the floor and bed,” the victim said. “They ripped everything out of the closets.” Every room in their home had been violated.
“We felt like we were personally attacked,” he said.
The victim claims that another home in Poet’s Square was looted and yet another was attempted, but the thief had no luck with entry.
According to the victim, it appeared as if the looters planned to return, as one of their rooms was staged with more grouped items to be taken at a later time.
“My wife lost a lot of jewelry that belonged to her mother and grandmother; a couple of pistols were taken,” he explained. The victim said one of his losses was an antique gun he had inherited from his father.
This victim realizes that the looting of his family’s home was a random act and says he and his wife cleaned their home as quickly as possible to get things back to normal. Though things seem okay, they still have worries.
“My wife is having problems sleeping; she is afraid [looters] will come back,” he said.
This resident says he does not blame the sheriff’s department for the looting that occurred during the state of emergency. “I don’t hold them responsible; they have a hard enough job.”
Editor’s Note: While 21 incidences of looting is a significant number, the Greater Fallbrook Area is comprised of more than 15,900 residential dwellings, according to the San Diego Association of Governments.