The newly formed Cerritos Sheriff's Station Residential Burglary Team working in concert with Orange County Sheriff's Department detectives confirmed Tuesday that a 22-year-old man arrested for a series of Yorba Linda break-ins last week, was also responsible for committing more than a dozen residential burglaries in the city of Cerritos over the past month.
Andrew Rashad Gatlin, 22, who is on parole for burglary, was arrested on Jan. 29 in connection with a rash of Yorba Linda burglaries that took place some time before October and peaked in December. Gatlin was arrested along with three other accomplices -- Lisette Monique Ayala, 18; Terrence Davion Collins, 22, also on parole for burglary; and Art Anthony Wibberding, 28. The foursome is believed to be tied to a long-standing crime ring and at the time of their arrests were found in possession of stolen property and a collection of burglary tools and weapons.
On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that Gatlin was also linked to 15 residential break-ins in Cerritos that began on New Year's Eve. Items stolen during this spate of thefts included miscellaneous electronics, jewelry and money, said Lt. Jeff Deedrick of the Cerritos Sheriff's Station.
"This investigation is ongoing with goal of recovering any of the stolen items that we possibly can, however, quite often people who commit residential burglaries quickly pawn or sell the items," the lieutenant added.
Formation of the Cerritos Station Residential Burglary Team
The station's residential burglary team was formed in late January under the direction of the station's new captain, Keith E. Swensson, who took over for Capt. Joe Gonzales who retired on Dec. 29, 2012.
"Cerritos Station has recently reallocated and dedicated new law enforcement resources for the sole purpose of preventing, apprehending and prosecuting burglaries in the city of Cerritos," according to a station news release.
The team -- comprised of special assignment operation deputies, a detective, a sergeant and a lieutenant -- was created in response to the growing trend of daytime residential burglaries in the city.
No additional funding was used to form this burglary team, said Deedrick, who oversees the team. Instead, the group was formed by using "current Cerritos Station resources and personnel that was already in place, and simply directing focus to residential burglaries."
"Our sole focus is to combat the recent increase in residential burglaries within the city and its surrounding communities," he said. "Our goal is not only to arrest people committing these burglaries but also to deter them from coming to the city."
Team Looks to Strengthen Communications with Neighboring Police Departments
The team, which handles patrol saturation within the city and burglary investigations, also works closely with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Major Crimes Bureau detectives, the lieutenant said. Additionally, the group continues to work on improving a professional relationship with neighboring city detectives and patrolmen in order to be on same page when it comes to distinguishing similar crime trends.
"During these initial first weeks, we're reaching out to neighboring agencies to strengthen our professional relationships and to improve the timeliness of sharing of information to help us better achieve communication to tackle this problem," Deedrick said, adding that most burglary crews don't just target a specific area, but rather a cluster of communities.
Burglary Crews Targeting Cerritos and Surrounding Communities
These burglary crews, Deedrick explained, are generally made up of two to four people whose method of operation generally includes the use of cellphones, and monitoring of police scanners and frequencies.
"These are organized burglary crews that target middle-to-upper class neighborhoods in Southern California, where they knock on doors and if someone doesn't answer, they jump the fence and make entry into these homes," the lieutenant said. "They then completely ransack the residence, take items from the home and leave."
The stolen items are then usually taken to a pawn shop or sold on the street and quickly turned into cash, making it extremely difficult to recover the stolen items after any time has passed, he added.
"These crews commit burglaries like it's a job ... and they have been targeting Cerritos and surrounding cities," Deedrick said.
What Can Residents Do to Protect Themselves?
While the Cerritos Station's burglary team's primary focus is to curtail the growing trend of residential burglaries, Deedrick said the team also aims to educate city residents on things they can do to prevent from becoming a target of these crimes.
Some of those tips include:
- having a monitored home alarm system
- locking all doors and windows to your home
- storing or securing valuables in a lock box at the bank -- not just storing it in a small safe, which can easily be picked up and carried out of the home
- documenting belongings and valuables with serial numbers and photos
- getting to know your neighbors and looking out for each other
- joining the Neighborhood Watch
- being more alert when it comes to recognizing and reporting suspicious activity and persons in your neighborhood to the Cerritos Station
Residents are always encouraged to be proactive by reporting any suspicious activity or person(s) to the Cerritos Sheriff's Station at (562) 860-0044.