Tracy police detective Keith Hooks said the city is usually hit with more burglaries in the summer and during the holidays, as homes and cars are stocked with gifts. Most burglars, he said, tend to be teenagers who break into homes through the windows and take items to turn around for a quick profit.
Hooks said there were 38 reported home burglaries in August this year, compared with 25 in August 2008. While the numbers for September and October were on par with last year’s figures, Hooks noted that residents reported 32 robberies in November 2008, 52 in December 2008 and 39 in January 2009.
While most of the stolen goods have been things like Xboxes and other items that can be stashed in a bag, Hooks said he’s seen possessions as big as flat-screen TVs removed from homes.
“We’ve made several arrests in the last two or three months, but it’s still an ongoing problem,” he said.
Hooks said most of the burglars caught by Tracy police have been local, but that’s not always the case. About three weeks ago, he said, two men and a woman from Oakland were arrested after they broke into a house on Jennifer Lane.
Both Hooks and crime prevention specialist officer Irene Rose pointed to the sour economy as a possible catalyst for the thefts. Tracy’s status as a commuter town, with many people who work out of the area during the day, is also a major attraction for burglars.
Rose, also the city’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator, said many crimes might be prevented if residents got to know the people around them. She said neighbors can watch out over nearby homes and call the residents if something looks suspicious.
“They need to organize together as a neighborhood and a family to care about each other,” Rose said. “If you’ve got somebody in the neighborhood that’s home a lot and they know everybody, they’ll be more alert to what’s going on and who belongs at that front door and who doesn’t.”
There are 147 Neighborhood Watch groups in Tracy, Rose said, and she’s seen more formed in the past few months. She noted one group in western Tracy that started a Neighborhood Watch in September 2008 that has had marked success.
In the eight months before the watch was formed, Rose said, the neighborhood was hit with nine burglaries, 17 cases of theft, 13 cases of vandalism and five stolen cars. In an eight-month period after the watch started, Rose said, there has just been one burglary, two cases of theft, five cases of vandalism and one stolen car.
“All you need is one neighbor that’s home a lot,” Rose said. “I always tell them, they need to give that person cookies on Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving and stimulate that relationship.”
Rose said that in addition to forming a Neighborhood Watch party or just getting to know neighbors, residents should install motion lights, mark items in their home for easy identification, trim any shrubbery that could provide concealment in front of homes and make sure deadbolts on doors lock properly.