by Timothy Rutt
Capt. John S. Benedict told Tuesday’s meeting of the Altadena Coalition of Neighborhood Associations that local gang members -- when they’re not shooting at each other -- will sometimes form alliances to prey on communities that they feel are ripe for the plucking. Benedict said that gang members are frequently behind the burglaries and thefts from vehicles that are currently Altadena’s biggest crime problem.
Benedict said that the recent shootings around Altadena Drive and Glenrose Avenue seem to be gang-related, but the two were not related to each other. A shooting at the 100 block of West Altadena Drive on Oct. 7 yielded only shell casings. On Oct. 11, another shooting, into a nearby barbershop, ended up wounding two bystanders.
While both were gang-related, Benedict said they were not related to each other. Benedict said that one house in the neighborhood, notorious among the neighbors for suspicious activity, seems to attract trouble when one particular unidentified person shows up there. As for the barbershop shooting, Benedict said that they thought one of the patrons was the intended victim.
Violent crime down
Sheriff Lt. Eric Lasko said that there were eight “unknown gunfire” reports in Altadena this year so far. He told the group that the deputies make many gang arrests but don’t announce them, hoping to parlay it into something bigger.
Overall, Lasko said, violent crime is down 31.5% this year. While number of forcible rapes is up (from 7 last year to 10 this year), it’s not “strangers jumping” out of nowhere -- there is usually some relationship between perpetrator and victim, Lasko said.
“Life in Altadena is a lot safer than life in 2008, or even 2012,” Lasko said.
Gang Sgt. Allen Harris said that the numbers of shootings are down, but the primary aggressors seem to be Pasadena Denver Lane Bloods. Allen said that they seem to be targeting other Altadena gangs, such as the Altadena Block Crips, Squiggly Lane Gangsters, and Raymond Avenue Crips. There also seems to be “some kind of rift between PDL and ABC.”
Harris said that the sheriffs are finding that gang members are getting together -- possibly in jail -- forming alliances to create home burglary crews.
"Transit criminals" burglarizing homes
Benedict said that gang members identify areas that are good targets for theft and burglary, and send out the crews to capitalize on it. The don’t have to be in the communities where the gangs hang out, Benedict said: “‘Transit criminals’ are coming into your community and stealing your stuff,” he said.
Allen said that a frequent MO involves walking thorugh a neighborhood wearing a backpack with a balloon in it to fill it out and avoid suspicion. After they break into a house, they pop the balloon and fill it with stolen goods, Allen said.
Deputy Michael Spina said that there was an uptick in property crime in Altadena, with burglary up 7.4 percent, larceny theft up 12.1 percent, and a gib increase in grand theft auto, 14.3 percent.
Benedict said that the gangs already have their networks, and the community needs to step up to match it. Examples of the “network working right” are neighborhood watch groups, calling to report suspicious activities, or vounteering at the sheriff station, which has an active citizen Volunteer on Patrol program.
Benedict said that callers can get better results by calling Altadena Station directly for non-emergency situations rather than calling 911 or contacting the Crimestoppers program.
The Altadena Sheriff Station is 626-798-1131. Sgt. Allen said to leave information at his number if there are people hanging around on the street, or cars that don’t belong in the neighborhood, or if there are gunshots at these times. His number is 626-296-2116.