Residents are concerned as a troubling uptick in “dinnertime burglaries” appears to be targeting communities in the San Fernando Valley.
Three cases were recently reported where intruders broke into homes between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. — a typical dinnertime hour.
In at least two cases, residents were still home at the time. Neighbors in the area are concerned about the troubling trend.
One of the victims, Tim Gaspar, said his Woodland Hills home was broken into on Nov. 13.
“That’s double-paned glass,” Gaspar said of a destroyed door. “I’m not sure what kind of tool they used to actually break the door in.”
Gaspar came home from dinner with family only to find his back door smashed in with shattered glass everywhere. His security cameras were ripped out of the walls, the rooms were ransacked, drawers and cabinets were tossed out and valuable jewelry and personal items were gone.
The family’s beloved 14-year-old German Shepherd was also pepper-sprayed while Gaspar’s gun safes were busted open.
“We quickly got out of the kitchen and went back into the driveway and I told the kids and my wife, ‘Hey, there’s been a break-in and we should probably hang out here,’” Gaspar recalled. “So then I called 911.”
Gaspar showed KTLA his mangled gun safes the thieves had pried open.
“There was a firearm in one,” he said of the safe. “They got them both open but for whatever reason didn’t actually feel the need to take the guns with them.”
Gaspar noted what was even more troubling was just how close they almost came to crossing paths with the burglars.
“So 7:12 p.m. is when we came home and one of the cameras where the power was cut off was at 7 p.m. so 12 minutes between then and us showing up,” he said. “So either we missed the burglars by a hair or for all I know, we startled the burglars when we came into the driveway.”
Another violent break-in at a Sherman Oaks home appeared to be similar to Gaspar’s incident with a glass door found smashed to pieces.
“Our home was invaded Wednesday at 7:50 p.m.,” said the Sherman Oaks victims. “We were home. Four or five men, all dressed in dark clothing with masks, gained access.”
Another woman said her elderly parents were at home in Woodland Hills when intruders forced their way inside at 7:40 p.m.
She said she was informed from multiple sources that many break-ins are happening between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. when people are believed to be out to dinner.
KTLA asked the Los Angeles Police Department whether investigators have noticed a “dinnertime robbery” trend but has not yet received a response.
Gaspar said he has since done his own research by checking LAPD’s online crime-mapping of reported break-ins in the area within the last 60 days.
“There were actually a decent number of those that would be between 6 p.m and 8 p.m.,” Gaspar said of his findings. “But at the same time, I noticed a bunch that were at 10 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 a.m. So I think it’s just a crime of opportunity.”
Gaspar said he will be fortifying his home security system, but said it’s also important that neighbors speak with each other and share any relevant stories so they can collectively watch out for each other and hopefully prevent any future break-ins.