String of construction site burglaries occur in area

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Six alleged burglaries at local homes and construction sites have cost residents and companies a reported $34,593; a Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station sergeant says he is unsure as to whether a ring of burglars is responsible.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

A recent pattern of construction-related burglaries in and around the Malibu area costing construction companies and residents thousands of dollars in stolen and damaged equipment have taken place in the past few months, according to reports from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

This surge of burglaries appears to have begun sometime around Feb. 15, when Sheriff’s deputies recorded a report that burglars stole equipment from an Oak Park residence, which was valued at $923.

The next incident took place the following week at a Malibu business. Stolen items were valued at $10,600. It appeared bolt cutters were used to gain entrance into the storage containers. Construction employees mentioned their security guard was on vacation at the time. A deputy said some mentioned they had heard of an organized ring of equipment thieves in the area, but these workers were unable to be reached for further comment.

Another burglary during the weekend of Feb. 26/27 took place at a Westlake Village construction site. Construction employees from the Rancho Dominguez, California-based Murray Company valued the stolen items at $6,640.

A deputy said it appeared bolt cutters were used to cut the locks on the storage containers and employees at the site told the deputy it was the third burglary in the past three months at that construction site alone.

Marvin Wheat, a Murray Company vice president, in a telephone interview recently explained why he thought construction sites were being targeted.

“Construction equipment has a quick resale,” Wheat said. “[The burglars] probably only get a few pennies on the dollar when they sell the stolen equipment, but they don’t care because they just want to unload it quickly.”

Wheat is perplexed as to how to guard against the thefts.

“I don’t even know what else we can do,” he said. “We had the same problem in Westlake Village in 1998 and 1999 when we were working on [another building]. We have two construction guards on [site] whenever we are off the site. We have two security trailers on the site and motion detectors which alert the guards to intruders.”

An attempted burglary reportedly took place at another Westlake Village business construction site around the same time as the Murray Company theft. The burglars were unsuccessful as no equipment was stolen, but construction employees valued the damage done to the storage containers at $2,300.

The burglaries continued right into March with an incident at a Malibu residence, which took place sometime at the end of February. A construction crew was using the guesthouse on the property to store their equipment. Burglars allegedly used a blowtorch to break into the storage containers. The missing construction tools and the damage to three storage containers were valued at $12,300.

The most recent construction site burglary deputies reported took place March 3 or 4 at another Malibu residence. The burglars gained entry into the home through an open garage door. It appeared the burglars used blowtorches to cut through the padlocks. The residents valued the stolen items at $1,830.

Since Feb. 15 a reported total of $34,593 of construction equipment has been stolen or damaged in the Lost Hills Station’s jurisdiction alone.

Sgt. Timothy Youngern at the Lost Hills Station said the investigation is ongoing in a telephone interview.

“We have not found [the burglars] yet,” Youngern said. “We believe there is more than one person behind it, but we don’t know at this point if it is a ring of criminals or not. We are taking different avenues and using different methods to solve the cases, which I can’t discuss right now.”