West Malibu burglaries raise concerns about possible theft ring 

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File photo.

Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station issues bulletin advising residents how to help avoid being a target

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

On Nov. 11, two West Malibu homes in the Sea Star Drive area were burglarized, with the runaway suspects expeditiously committing the crimes in a fashion suspiciously akin to that used by a vast burglary ring targeting wealthy U.S. households in recent years.

The victims chose not to be identified, but one told The Malibu Times, “We hope we can save other neighbors the heartbreak we’ve experienced, and we also want people to know so that we watch out more closely for one another.”

On Nov. 27, Detective Sgt. Stephen Horton of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station stated, “With regard to the two West Malibu incidents on Nov. 11, we are not sure if it was the case that such a criminal ring committed them.” 

He explained that was because the three perpetrators were fully covered up, making it impossible to discern their identity. 

“However, those crimes were committed in the modus operandi where criminals go in on the second floor of a home, which often is not on a security alarm.” Horton added.

Although seemingly new to Malibu, such burglaries have been occurring for a few years nationwide, as well as on other continents. Interested readers may wish to review a Vanity Fair article dated Feb. 24, 2022, that one of the Malibu West victims sent to The Malibu Times, titled “Crime Ring — Thieves in the Night: A Vast Burglary Ring From Chile Has Been Targeting Wealthy U.S. Households.”  

The crime gang’s modus operandi described in that article and other media publications aligns with the Malibu victims’ security footage demonstrating how the intruders entered the two West Malibu homes. Video clips show that the trio of perpetrators jumped over the Malibu West homes’ backyard fences, quickly scaled the exterior of the homes, made their way into the second-floor master bedrooms by breaking glass doors — which generally does not trigger a security alarm, and made off with a large amount of cash and expensive, brand-named items such as jewelry, purses, shoes and other valuables.

“The criminals were very professional and they were not messing around,” one victim said. “They knew exactly what they were doing.”  

The suspects, heavily protected by masks and gloves, carried backpacks and a crowbar and entered into master bedrooms by breaking glass near the balcony. 

They swiftly committed their dirty deeds, spending less than 25 minutes in each home. One victim’s security camera captured them entering one home at 6:04 p.m. and ransacking the home. After making their way across an empty construction lot, the criminals broke into a neighbor’s home around 6:23 p.m., where they also committed their crimes with stunning efficiency and speed.  They left the second home at 6:42 p.m. 

The burglars used sophisticated security camera jammers in one home, where they were only seen by one camera.  The other victims’ security system was hard-wired. 

The incidents lead to questions regarding how to protect one’s home, vehicle and self.

Horton discussed what security precautions can be taken by residents. 

“Although cameras are great, the hardwire cameras are better than internet-based security systems because those can be jammed,” he said. 

Installing a security camera system throughout all levels of one’s home is critical to deterring the kind of crime that the suspects in the two Malibu West homes committed, Horton added, noting that using adequate lights throughout a home and the outer environs of one’s property are also enormously helpful. 

In the words of one person hearing the victims’ woes, “Get a dog. A German Shepherd knows how to handle the criminals.”

Horton confirmed another incident on Oct. 12, when a couple in West Malibu was bound up and made to give intruding criminals the code to their safe.

“The way these crews operate, they don’t want confrontation,” Horton said. “In that incident, the suspects found a mostly dark home, entered, and they did not anticipate occupants being there.” 

Although they were confronted by the criminals, Horton wanted to clarify that the couple was not beat up, and said the incident is being investigated by the major crimes unit.

On Nov. 21, the Lost Hills station issued a bulletin noting that with citizens beginning to shop for gifts and holiday supplies, it is wise to keep one’s expensive purchases and other items out of sight in one’s vehicle. Instead, place any such items in the vehicle’s trunk.

Other tips stated in the bulletin:

  • If you place packages in your vehicle and plan to go back inside for more shopping, consider driving away from your current parking spot and park somewhere new, so no one knows what valuable items you left unattended.
  • Stay vigilant and park in a well-lit area. 
  • Avoid shopping alone! Consider shopping with friends or relatives so everyone looks out for each other.
  • Neighbors should watch out for neighbors! If you will be staying home or traveling, help keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report it to your local law enforcement.  This makes communities safer.
  • Let someone you trust know when you’re traveling and have them watch your house and retrieve any newspapers and collect your mail. 

Residents can stay informed about safety precautions to use and crimes that have occurred by following the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station on social media. The Malibu Times will keep readers informed about whether the investigators determine who committed the three West Malibu crimes.