http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/03/21/cops-talk-to-greenbrook-neighbors


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - March 21, 2008

Cops talk to Greenbrook neighbors

South Danville area has been targeted for break-ins

by Meghan Neal

Around 150 concerned homeowners filed in to Greenbrook Elementary's multipurpose room last Wednesday evening, buzzing about burglaries and geared up to hear what police had to say.

The Neighborhood Watch meeting was held in response to the relatively high number of residential break-ins in the southern portion of town this year.

Police came to educate residents of Greenbrook, Danville South, Danville Station, Shadow Hills, Silverwood and other neighborhoods about how to prevent burglaries. Police also wanted to dispel false rumors that had been circulating.

"Danville's biggest problem is property crimes," Chief Chris Wenzel told residents. "It's a double-edged sword. Because we're a safe community we do things like leave our cars in the driveway with the keys in it. We make it easy for these criminals."

"The chief hit the nail on the head," added nvestigation Sgt. Dan Hoffman later in the meeting. "We live in a nice area - we get a little complacent sometimes."

In 13 of the 15 residential burglaries the town has seen so far this year the burglarized house was unlocked.

But Andrew Kerr, whose home was locked when it was broken into in January, said he doesn't think complacency is the whole extent of the problem.

He said he believes a group of burglars have honed in on certain parts of the town and they need to be stopped.

"I think at least the word is getting out that the whole, kind of, south part of Danville is a target," he said. "It's not just something that's going to happen to someone else. I think that's the message that police need to be highlighting more."

Kerr's house was robbed when his wife stepped out for about 25 minutes, locking up behind her. The thieves broke in through the side door and entered through the garage, he said.

It's a typical scenario. The break-ins usually occur in broad daylight, specifically between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays, police said. Thieves will often pose as solicitors, knock on doors and if no one answers, walk into the house. They'll be in and out in mere minutes.

The last home burglary in the targeted area occurred Feb. 20. Police attribute the slow down to special suppression teams that were formed to prevent residential and auto burglaries.

At the meeting police answered questions from the audience and cleared up some false information they'd been hearing in the last few months.

Hoffman explained the difference between a burglary and a "home invasion" - which is when residents are home during the break-in and are held at gunpoint, handcuffed or otherwise abused by the robber.

He also explained that, despite what the TV show CSI has led many people to believe, fingerprints take three to six months to process - a fact that provoked murmurs of surprise from the crowd.

And unfortunately, he added, fingerprints usually don't generate leads. There have been no fingerprint hits for any of this year's burglaries in Danville.

Police recommended writing down serial numbers on valuable possessions like laptops and cameras. The numbers are then entered into a national database that can be referenced if something is stolen.

When someone asked for the best way to contact police, dozens of people quickly fished out a pen and paper to jot down the phone number: 646-2441. The number goes directly to dispatch and will almost always be picked up by someone right away, Hoffman said.

"We need you to pick up the phone and call," he pleaded. "Don't feel like you're bothering us, 'cause you're not at all."

Calling and reporting any suspicious activity is one way residents can band together to help police catch the culprits, Kerr said.

He said it was important for people not to turn a blind eye or assume they're immune to the problem.

"I think that's what most people in Danville are doing," he said. "They're saying, 'It's not going to be me ...'"

The message of collaboration was echoed by one of the meeting's facilitators, Brenda Fallon, a former board member of the Greenbrook Homes Association.

"We all need to work together, because it wasn't just Greenbrook that had burglaries," she said. "With a little education - if we're all aware - we can stop this stuff. We can help the police."

Write down this number

The best phone number to call for non-emergency crimes is 646-2441, which goes directly to police dispatch.

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