Authorities in Rancho Cucamonga are investigating a string of burglaries that have left several small business owners struggling to get by.
Surveillance footage from Gandolfo’s New York Deli shows thieves breaking through the front door and going straight toward the back office at around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.
In just three minutes, they manage to steal a safe that was bolted to the floor and contained hundreds of dollars in employee tips.
The owners, Kevin Mendez and Maira Gutierrez, told KTLA that between the damage to their story and the stolen cash, they’ve lost about $10,000.
“It was just so brazen,” Gutierrez said. “Unfortunately, we did have about two weeks’ worth of deposits in our safe, which is not unusual. So, it was just so unlucky.”
Detectives with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department say they’re investigating at least four burglaries at local businesses. Officials are unsure if the crimes are related but believe it’s a possibility.
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Victoria Gardens Mall was also hit. So was David’s Gifts and Tobacco, where Cheryl Brown has worked for the last 17 years.
“This is where I spend most of my time,” Brown told KTLA. “So, it makes me feel violated in some sort of way.”
The alarm at that store went off at around 4 a.m., and again, three people broke through the window and made off with two trash barrels worth of merchandise.
“They were here and gone within two minutes,” Brown said. “We don’t know what they used to smash the window, but they went straight to the back.”
Xiao Jia Ding told KTLA that her Koio Tea Shop was targeted on Tuesday morning. Two people broke the lock on her front door and stole expensive kitchen appliances.
“It’s brand new. We just opened, but we lost a professional machine,” Ding said. “The next morning, when we got in, I don’t know what we can do because the sugar machine, we need it.”
The frustrating reality for these small businesses is that they’re left cleaning up the mess and replacing what was taken from them.
“You almost feel violated because this is a safe community and we’re a tight-knit community,” said Mendez. “All the business owners here are small business owners, and we all know each other. It’s a labor of love. So, to just have somebody come and take that away from you, it’s tough.”
So far, the sheriff’s department has not identified any suspects or made any arrests. Detectives have been to each one of the businesses, though, collecting surveillance footage and dusting for fingerprints.