By Joe Tash
San Diego police believe a home burglary in Carmel Valley on Oct. 29 — in which a resident came home to encounter an armed intruder — was part of a series of at least five residential break-ins in Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights, and they are asking the public for information to help them identify suspects.
All five of the crimes occurred between Oct. 27 and Nov. 7, said Capt. Lori Luhnow, who heads the San Diego Police Department’s Northwestern Division on El Camino Real. In three of the cases, residents had left town for several days when their homes were burglarized. In only one case — the Oct. 29 incident in the 5100 block of Seagrove Cove in Carmel Valley — did a victim confront the suspect, Luhnow said.
The other four cases occurred in Del Mar Heights: two in the 2100 block of Cordero, one in the 2000 block of Demayo Road and one in the 14000 block of Bahama Cove. All five of the burglaries occurred at single family homes.
Several common elements run through the five break-ins, said Luhnow. For example, in each case, the residents had left home without locking the interior door between their garage and home, but when they returned, the doors had been locked. Also, jewelry was the primary item stolen in the burglaries.
Luhnow said investigators believe the burglar locked the doors to give him more time to escape if a resident did return home during the break-in, which is what apparently happened in the Carmel Valley incident.
In the Carmel Valley case, the resident pulled his car into his garage and found the door to his house locked, and then encountered the suspect in his driveway. The intruder pulled out a handgun and ordered the man back into his garage before fleeing. The resident and his children, who were asleep in the car, were unharmed.
Police have a video taken by a neighbor that shows vehicle headlights leaving the scene, but neither the vehicle nor any occupants can be seen clearly, Luhnow said.
The suspect was described as a black man in his late 20s, about 5-foot-9-inches tall and weighing about 170 pounds, and wearing a black-and-white “Rasta”-style cap.
Luhnow urged residents to call the police if they see anyone matching this description who does not appear to belong in their neighborhood, including solicitors.
“We need people to lock their doors and windows and report suspicious behavior,” Luhnow said.
Anyone with information concerning any of the break-ins is asked to contact the San Diego Police Department’s Northwestern Division at (619) 523-7000 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
Northwestern Division detectives will meet with counterparts in other law enforcement agencies to determine if any burglaries in nearby communities are related, Luhnow said.
“We will reach out to our partner law enforcement agencies to see if there are trends, or information we can share,” she said. “We’re pretty confident this suspect is driving into our area because most of these locations are close to the freeway.”
Both Luhnow and Lt. Glenn Giannantonio of the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station — which serves Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and Rancho Santa Fe — suggested a number of steps residents can take to protect their homes and reduce the chance they will victimized by criminals.
“The most effective and simplest thing is to use the security measures people already have on their house, the door locks and window locks,” said Giannantonio. “Quite often, burglars are looking for a crime of convenience.”
Both officials said that in a number of North County home burglaries, police find no sign of forced entry, indicating that the intruder entered through an open or unlocked door or window.
Other steps residents can take to protect their homes include:
•Keep trees and bushes trimmed so doors and windows are visible to the street and neighbors, making it harder for an intruder to conceal his or her actions.
•Use fixed or motion-sensor lighting to keep the exterior of the home well-lighted.
•Know your neighbors, and inform them when you will be out of town, or if you are having work done at your home. Encourage them to call you on your cell phone or call the police if they see suspicious activity.
•Install and use a home burglar alarm, and/or get a dog. Both can deter a would-be intruder, or alert residents to a break-in.
•When you will be away from home, use timers to turn different lights on and off at different times. Make sure newspaper delivery is stopped, or that someone picks up the paper in the morning, and that trash cans aren’t left on the street.
•Keep an inventory of property that includes photos or videos and serial numbers, and engrave valuables if possible.
In the rare cases when a victim is confronted by a suspect, the victim must use his or her own best judgment, instinct and intuition in determining how to handle the situation, Luhnow and Giannantonio said.
“Each person has to make their own decision as to how far they want to let it go before they do something,” Giannantonio said.
For more safety tips and information on crime prevention services, visit the San Diego police and sheriff’s website at http://www.sdsheriff.net/co_crimeprevention.html and http://www.sandiego.gov/police/services/prevention/index.shtml.