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OPD says residents helped nab burglary suspects

on November 14, 2008


Nov. 14–In a packed auditorium at Montera Middle School last night, Oakland Police Cpt. Anthony Toribio commended both the Montclair neighborhood and Oakland officers for capturing two suspects believed to have been involved in a number of forced-entry burglaries in the Oakland Hills throughout September and October.

Charles Langley and Kevin Simmons are charged with multiple felonies, and as more forensic evidence becomes available, more charges will likely be added. On Oct. 28, officers apprehended the duo after a dramatic car chase down Highway 13 and Broadway.

While the arrested men are suspected of having played a role in many of the burglaries, police urged residents to continue exercising caution because two groups still appear to be raiding the Montclair area. Neighbors also brought up other concerns, including the rise in suspicious solicitors and contractors apparently casing houses for burglaries, as well as the increasing number of speeding cars on Park Blvd.

But the bulk of last night’s meeting was spent recounting the details of the arrest of Langley and Simmons, which Toribio said followed a series of helpful phone calls and emails from Monclair residents to the police.

In fact, Toribio said, it was an observant Montclair resident who first noticed in October that there had been a sharp spike in burglaries in the neighborhood. Montclair normally averages one to two burglaries a month. But in September alone, according to Nick Vigilante, co-chair of the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council, there were 17 burglaries. By mid October, there were already another 11.

Police responded quickly to the resident’s call, Toribio said. All the burglary reports were pulled and compared, with officer Mike Munoz noting that, among other similarities, all the burglaries had taken place between 9 and 4pm on weekdays. Officers then went to victims’ homes to take fingerprints, obtain details not found in the reports, and collect further evidence. Within several days, Toribio said, the police were able to narrow in on a particular car.

Then on the afternoon of Oct. 28, Toribio said, after police had told residents to be on the lookout for a blue Honda, a resident phoned 911 when he saw a vehicle matching that description roaming the neighborhood. After police found out the car was stolen, Toribio said, they believed they had their suspects. “This whole operation couldn’t have been done without the community involvement,” said Toribio. “Because of your calls and e-mails to the Oakland Police Department,we were able to do our job.”

In addition to the community’s heavy involvement in the case, Toribio said, the successful arrests were also due to officers being cross-trained. “In the entire city of Oakland, we only have one fingerprint technician,” Toribio said. “Officer Ramos had to learn that skill on this case.”

Lt. Freddie Hamilton told the audience that Toribio’s squad is also trained in burglary investigation. “It’s the only squad in the entire department that has received that training,” he said. “You’re very lucky to have them here.”

Cross-training officers is one way Toribio is trying to offset the challenges brought on by a financially strapped city. “These officers deserve a lot of credit for the way they’re adapting to the job and learning new skills,” he said. And in addition to the greater skill sets they’re acquiring, he said, they’re working with greater limits. “We are not allowing discretionary overtime, there are no replacements for officers on leave, and we had to eliminate special enforcement like the bicycle patrols and surveillance,” he said. “This is a very difficult time for us.”

While the fiscal problems do not have any immediate solutions, Toribio said, there are simple steps people can take to minimize the chance of their homes being burglarized. “Shut your front doors,” said Sgt. Bernard Ortiz. “You wouldn’t believe how many houses we see where people leave their doors wide open. I just walked into a home one day to show the owner how easy it was to come in.”

“Alarms deter burglars,” said officer Maureen Vergara. “Most criminals leave when the hear an alarm. And update your security doors; don’t keep yours from the 1970’s. They sell non-kick doors now.”||||||||||||||

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