Spate of Burglaries Has Sunset Park Residents Alarmed
By Olin Ericksen and Jorge Casuso
January 28 -- A recent rash of burglaries in Sunset Park has residents alarmed and taking matters into their own hands, while police try to quell fears they say are based on inaccurate information.
Five residential burglaries and one attempted burglary have been reported in the north east section of Sunset Park since December 8, the latest incident taking place Monday, said Lt. Frank Fabrega, the police department spokesman.
Police this week began stepping up patrols and canvassing the area bounded by 22nd Street, Centinela Avenue, Pico Boulevard and Pearl Street, where all of the incidents occurred, Fabrega said.
Countering emails and flyers they worry are spreading unfounded fears, police have “put out a crime alert,” dropping off flyers and scheduling three neighborhood watch meetings early next month, Fabrega said.
The police response comes after the community began posting public notices on street poles in mid-January, and asked council members -- two of whom live in the area -- to have the department assign extra police patrols.
"Neighbor's Beware," read a flyer stapled to an electric pole on Pearl Street near 31st Street, informing neighbors that there have been "home invasion burglaries" recently in the area.
"The burglars come in the night and target garages," the flyer said. "Last time, though, they broke into the main house while occupants slept."
Fabrega said there have been no “home invasions” and that most of the incidents have occurred between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.. In two of the burglaries, the suspect entered through an unlocked door, he said.
“With home invasion the inference is that the residents are sleeping and the burglars come in and tie them up,” Fabrega said. “That can definitely be misleading to some folks.”
Neighborhood leaders counter that residents have been on their own because police have failed to keep them informed.
"They need to inform the residents of what's going on so we are not basing our actions on rumors,” said Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park. “Basically we're not being informed."
While police place he number of burglaries at six, concerned residents say there may be nine incidents, with six of them taking place within a block of the intersection of 25th and Pearl streets.
"Obviously, everyone is very concerned," said Sunset Park resident Bill Dawson. "I know first-hand of six burglaries from talking with neighborhood friends and of three others from an email sent out by the neighborhood group, Friends of Sunset Park."
Dawson -- who emailed City Council members this week asking for increased neighborhood patrols and contacted police last week asking for a community response -- said he believes police have acted swiftly.
"I think they're trying to respond," Dawson said. "It takes a while to see that a pattern is emerging and now they are reacting."
Police said it has been difficult to link the burglaries, especially since no suspect has been seen and the incidents -- contrary to the information spread by residents -- have not been concentrated in a single area.
“Usually when we have an identifiable trait, that gives us a specific area or suspects we can track,” Fabrega said. “Here, we have no information, so it’s difficult to link them together.”
Police advise residents to be on the lookout for unusual activity or individuals that linger in a place longer than is normal.
“If they see suspicious activity or a subject they don’t normally see in the neighborhood for one or two minutes in the same area, they should call police,” Fabrega said.
Residents who wish to hold a Neighborhood Watch meeting in their immediate area should call the Police Department’s Community Relations Unit at 458-8474.
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