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Burglaries on the rise, police ask citizens for help

By: Jon Brines, Special to The Placer Herald
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The Rocklin Police Department is trying to stem the tide of vehicle and home burglaries that have jumped 37 percent last month compared to January 2008, according to police. “There has been an increase in theft in general with this downturn in the economy,” said Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens. Longtime Rocklin homeowner Michael O’Hagan said while he was sleeping, a thief used his garage door opener from his car to enter his garage and steal $2,800 worth of tools and sports equipment. His wife discovered the garage door open when she took the dog on the morning walk. Now she’s having a tough time dealing with it. “It definitely changes you,” O’Hagan said. “The sense of being violated comes at the pit of your stomach. It’s the realization that somebody had the audacity to come into your home and take what wasn’t theirs, because they could.” Rocklin officers located O’Hagan’s $2,000 golf clubs after they were sold to a pawnshop in Roseville for $50. “We got all of the clubs back so it was kind of a miracle,” O’Hagan said. “I was completely amazed I was able to get anything back.” Rocklin Sgt. Scott Horrillo said a burglary ring out of the Modesto area was recently broken up and some of the property recovered came from Rocklin homes. “We’ve seen a thief ring a doorbell with a clip board in hand,” said Horrillo. “If the door was answered, they would make up some story. If nobody answered, it’s a sign to them that no one is home and then break-in. That’s a very popular way to do it.” Siemens said his officers are doing everything they can to stop criminals, but they need citizens to help them with crime prevention. “There are some random crimes that could be thwarted by more attention to crime prevention by our citizens,” Siemens said. “People need to live their life in a way that manages their risk.” Horrillo said citizens should take pictures of valuables and keep serial numbers that can be quickly identified if they show up at pawnshops. If the item doesn’t have a serial number, he suggests etching your driver’s license number or other number you can use to easily identify it. However, never use your social security number because it can be easily used for identity theft, police said. “A lot of this is crime of opportunity,” Horrillo said. “Thieves walk through neighborhoods looking for things. They don’t hit every car. They are not going to waste their time going into a car if they can’t see valuables.” Police said thieves target gym parking lots because people feel their car is more secure than the gym locker room and that’s an opportunity to steal credit cards or purses. “It only takes moments for a thief to see somebody put a purse in their trunk or leave one on the seat of their car and go steal that,” Horrillo said. Police are also reporting a rash of model home break-ins where thieves see the vacant houses as an opportunity to steal appliances and big screen TV’s. “Be careful how you handle valuables,” Siemens said. “I would urge the citizens to be very careful right now. Keep your garage doors closed and your vehicles locked around your house.” O’Hagan admits he didn’t lock his car, which led to the thief quickly getting a hold of his garage door opener. “It’s hard to accept the fact that the days when I grew up, when you left your doors unlocked, are behind us,” O’Hagan said. O’Hagan said he’s replaced his garage door opener with a keychain version that he never leaves in his car. He’s also installed motion-sensor lights over his garage and put an extra lock on the side garage door and is considering an alarm system. Even so, O’Hagan said all of his new security measures will never remove that feeling in the pit of his stomach of being violated. “The sense of violation remains,” O’Hagan said. “It’s a wake-up call. You must take the necessary precautions to make it a little more difficult and not make your house as easy to get into." Siemens agrees and said citizens need to be more vigilant. “The idea that government is going to keep us safe from everything is a fallacy,” he said. “I think everyone in our community is responsible for their own safety. We are here to help.”