Cindy Hoffman, a customer-service representative with Blue Star Gas at 340 H St. in Crescent City, was concerned to learn the business next door - the Del Norte Triplicate – had been burglarized last weekend.
“I was very surprised,” said Hoffman. “It had to take them a while to get away with everything they took, and nobody saw anything? The Police Department is just the next street over.”
Hoffman was sympathetic with The Triplicate’s loss, since Blue Star Gas, a business staple in Crescent City for more than six decades, itself has been a victim of break-ins twice in the last five years.
She said the company installed an alarm system after the first break-in,
“but that didn’t stop them the second time.”
About six months ago, Hoffman said, someone threw a rock through a window in the alley, jumped in and snatched a generator. “They got about as far as the Elks Lodge across the street before it must have gotten too heavy, because they stashed it there.
“The police later found it and brought it back,” she said.
The Triplicate’s office at 318 H St. was one of five businesses burglarized since Aug.6, according to Crescent City police records.
Acting Chief of Police Sgt. Edward Wilson shared the results of a search of recent records, saying, “I ran the burglaries, without location, from Aug. 6 through Sept. 16. We had seven incidents of shoplifting, two vehicle burglaries, two residential and five commercial burglaries.”
Wilson said anecdotally that the numbers seem on par with property crime this time of year. “We see an increase in petty theft from cars during the summer at the hotels and motels, while the residential break-ins tend to be steady.”
In California, residential burglary is considered first-degree and a felony. Second-degree burglary involves any other type of structure, including stores and businesses.
Second-degree burglary is known as a “wobbler” infraction, which in this state can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor.
According to criminaldefenselawyer.com, prior to Proposition 47 prosecutors could charge thefts of less than $950 as wobblers, making it possible for the accused to end up with a felony, particularly if the defendant had stolen certain types of property or had prior offenses.
That option was removed in 2014 by Proposition 47. Now, all property crimes with losses worth less than $950 must be charged as misdemeanors.
The total loss at The Triplicate totaled close to $19,000, said publisher Carol Hungerford, and included several computers.
“Looking at the typical suspect’s modus operandi,” Wilson said, “most commercial burglaries, in general, they’ll break a window to get in quick and take computers and electronics. While in homes, they’ll take anything.”
Jeremy Herber, the general manager at Recology Del Norte at 2675 Lake Earl Dr., expressed his frustration with unintended consequences from Proposition 24 after an early-August break-in at his business.
Herber said the suspect was videotaped on several security cameras at Recology and nearby businesses using bolt cutters to gain entrance through the back fence and access supply containers on the property.
“All he took was a portable power washer,” said Herber, “worth about $300. He also cut the locks in the drivers’ room and stole keys to our trucks. But he just threw them over the fence, loaded the power washer in a car and left.
“We got a very good picture of him. But if the damage and theft is under a certain limit, in California they don’t bother with them anymore.”
Wilson said most burglary and theft suspects are drug addicts, or tweekers, trying to make a quick buck to support their habit. He said suspects among the homeless population tend to drift more toward shoplifting.
“These suspects do seem to exchange information to help each other out,” Wilson said.
“We patrol diligently through the evening hours, which reduces crime. But when officers make an arrest and are occupied at the station, that’s when we see an uptick back out on the street.”