Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Burglary spree leads to thousands in tool losses

Over the past six weeks at least 10 properties in the south and east portions of Fallbrook have been burglarized with the theft of tools appearing to be the main intent. The combined losses have reached into tens of thousands of dollars. Targeted items have included power and hand tools, generators, compressors, table saws, drill presses, lathes and more. As a result, the Sheriff’s department has categorized them as commercial burglaries.

“These burglaries are happening at night and the thief is using pry tools to enter the premises,” said Sheriff’s detective Tom Vrabel, who detailed that the majority of break-ins have occurred in sheds, detached workshops, barns and other outbuildings.

“But these crimes are pretty bold because there are houses on these properties,” said Vrabel.

The crimes have occurred at properties in Fallbrook with easy access to Old Highway 395 as well as State Route 76.

“It’s my opinion that the perpetrator is staying close to escape routes,” said Vrabel.

To gain access inside the buildings, the perpetrator(s) have used pry tools and in some cases cut through chain link to dispose of padlocks.

Vrabel said he believes the stolen tools are probably ending up at Los Angeles area swap meets.

“That area is huge with swap meets and they do not appear to have as good of a monitoring system in that area for stolen goods as San Diego does,” said Vrabel. “Unless there’s specific identification on the item (personal engraving), there’s very little hope for recovery.”

Vrabel believes that in many cases the burglarized properties may have been “cased” ahead of time, because some are in locations “off the beaten track.”

“Some of these properties are not readily accessible; someone had to know it was there,” he said.

The detective also said in his experience that “90 percent of the suspects in these types of burglaries have a drug-related issue.”

Vrabel said evidence has been collected at some of the burglarized properties, including fingerprints and DNA.

Deputies assigned to the Fallbrook command area have stepped up night patrol in the affected area, Vrabel said.

“They are out in those areas patrolling more frequently at 1, 2, 3 a.m.,” he said. “They have been contacting people that are out and about at that hour as well as doing probation checks in the area.”

Residential burglaries have increased as well, Vrabel said. “In the past six weeks we’ve had 16 residential burglaries. That averages out to two or three a week, which is just too many for our area.”

Items stolen in most of the recent residential burglaries include jewelry, money, guns and small electronics. Entry has been gained into homes by the burglar kicking in doors and breaking windows.

Vrabel said he tends to believe the residential burglaries are being committed by out-of-towners. He also pointed to the release of county prisoners that took place earlier this week and aired his concern for the future.

More than 250 San Diego County inmates were released this week after a new law went into effect designed to reduce the state’s inmate population. Those released are categorized as “low level criminals,” not those convicted of serious, violent, or sex crimes.

Vrabel said he repeatedly encourages area residents to call the Fallbrook substation when they see any suspicious activity and report it.

“We may not catch the burglar immediately, but every call helps,” explained Vrabel. “I know how frustrating it can be to want justice served; I’ve been a victim of a burglary and identity theft myself.”

Due to the amount, size and weight of the tools being stolen in the commercial burglaries, Vrabel said the perpetrators have to be driving a truck or sport utility vehicle.

“Residents should call us if they see a vehicle like that roaming their area in a suspicious manner,” he said. If possible, without contacting the individual(s) inside, it is recommended that a license number be jotted down.

Vrabel and crime prevention specialist John McLelland agreed a formal or informal Neighborhood Watch program is the most effective deterrent to crime.

“If you don’t have one, now is the time to get a Neighborhood Watch program organized for your street,” said McLelland, who provides the needed organizational help to local residents and conducts home security inspections – both for free.

McLelland offered the following suggestions for homeowners wishing to better secure their structures: install only solid core doors on exterior points of entry, install a good quality deadbolt, reinforce door sidings, purchase an alarm system and use it, have valuables engraved with an identification number (which he will do for free), and call him for a complementary home security inspection.

If possible, McLelland suggested that residents install an alarm system “and remember to set it.”

“I’ve also seen some pretty cool homemade alarms people have made for their doors,” said McLelland.

While some may misconstrue a Neighborhood Watch program as being “nosey,” McLelland said, “It’s not being nosey; it’s being cautious; it’s just a matter of getting to know your neighbors and who they authorize to be on their property when they aren’t home. It’s also about simple things like letting your neighbors know when you are going to be gone for a few days.”

McLelland can be contacted regarding the Neighborhood Watch program, or for free engraving or security inspections at (760) 451-3124.

Those who wish to report suspicious activity in the Fallbrook, Bonsall, Rainbow or De Luz neighborhoods should call the Sheriff’s communication center at (760) 728-1113.

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