The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station last week arrested two men from the Oakland area for car burglaries in what may be a major step in reducing the surge in vehicle break-ins and thefts in WeHo and adjacent areas.
It all started in the early morning hours of Nov. 8 when residents called the Sheriff’s Station to complain of several car burglaries in the Center City of West Hollywood, with most in the area around the intersection of La Cienega and Santa Monica boulevards. The deputies who responded to the calls realized how close the incidents were and learned that there had been similar car break-ins in the nearby area patrolled by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire division.
Capt. Sergio Aloma, who heads the WeHo Sheriff’s Station, said a major break in their investigation was the revelation by one of the victims that his cellphone was stolen from his car. Using GPS, deputies were able to track the cellphone to an area near Cahuenga and Hollywood boulevards where they located a car containing the cellphone. Aloma said the deputies were able to identify the suspects who had been in the car from closed-circuit video of the area. They then set up a surveillance of the area and waited for those men to return.
Aloma said that two hours later, a detective who had taken over the case saw the men come back to their car and arrested them. The detective obtained search warrants for the car and for a room in a nearby motel where they men were staying. Those searches turned up items stolen in car break-ins in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, which had had a similar rash of burglaries the same morning.
“Both of suspects were from what we believe to be a known criminal street gang, part of an organized crew that has been committing crimes in the West Hollywood area for many months now,” Aloma said.
Aloma said the fact that the men are part of an organized gang may explain the surge in vehicle break-ins and theft. “In WeHo alone, year-to-date, we’ve had over 400 car burglaries, which is a significant increase from previous years and we believe these people are responsible for a lot of these,” Aloma said. “Their MO is they look for cars that are parked and containing valuables — laptops, cell phones — that they can get rid of easily and turn in for cash. That’s the reason we put out those messages” “don’t leave any valuables in your car.”
Indeed vehicle burglaries are the most common crime noted in the Sheriff’s station’s weekly report, with valuables worth tens of thousand of dollars stolen in a single week. The Sheriff’s Station’s crime report for October showed 54 vehicle burglaries in West Hollywood, a major increase from 41 in October 2016.
Aloma said both men were released on bond and West Hollywood detectives are working with the Beverly Hills Police Department and the LAPD in the hope that they can present combined evidence to the L.A. County District Attorney that many of the vehicle burglaries in all areas have been the work of an organized crime group.