Aaron Rosenfield knew in an instant he had become a victim of burglars when he and his wife walked into their West Los Angeles home last Thursday night.
"First thing we noticed was the door open, unlocked. We always lock the door. That was a bit strange," Rosenfield said.
Thieves ransacked several rooms and left with jewelry. Rosenfield says he called police who were already on his block on Kelton Avenue.
"There were actually some police on the street already investigating a burglary two houses down," Rosenfield added.
In fact, there have been half a dozen burglaries in this West LA neighborhood since December 30, according to a crime sheet given to the local neighborhood watch group. The streets affected include Midvale, Selby and Kelton avenues. In at least one break-in, residents were inside at the time. There were another six car thefts in the area as well. The rash of burglaries now has Rosenfield and others making major changes to their homes.
"Most of us are installing cameras and installing alarms," Rosenfield said.
Terri Tippit is being more than just cautious these days. She has installed a new gate latch, now dead bolts her front door, and put a safety mechanism on her windows.
According to police, homeowners should lock all doors including garage doors even when stepping out for a short time, like walking a dog. Tippit, 65, who lives alone has been left feeling vulnerable and uneasy.
"Every time I come home I wonder, 'Am I going to walk into a home that's been hit,'" Tippit said.
Tippit is the head of several homeowners associations and a board member of the West LAPD's advisory board and has been taking safety cues from cops. She has shared these new tips with the people around her.
"In the old days again police would say, 'Don't answer your door at night unless you know who is coming.' Now they are telling you, you don't have to open it but just say hello or what do you want," Tippit added.
Brian Behling owns his own electrical company, B-Line Electric. He sent out an e-mail to his neighbors, offering to assist anyone who needed motion sensor lights or other equipment that might make them feel safer.
"We look out for neighbors and people's cars and stuff. We've had things stolen from our cars. It does help," Behling said.
Captain Evangelyn Nathan of the West Los Angeles Community Police Station says law enforcement has been tracking what they call a "seasonal dynamic" of burglaries during the holiday time. From Dec. 11 to 17, there were 33 residential and commercial burglaries in the 64.5 square miles in the West LA District, according to Captain Nathan.
Nathan said the numbers are trending downward. From Jan. 1 to 7, there were 19 burglaries. Police have increased enforcement and patrols.
Tippit says a community meeting of the West of Westwood Homeowners Association will include their senior lead police officer. He is expected to advise residents on how to protect their homes and themselves. Captain Nathan suggests keeping lights on, alarms set, and even turning on a television or radio if you will be out of your home.