An investigation is under way into four residential burglaries that took place at The Boardwalk condominium complex in Cerritos last week while the units were being fumigated -- a crime that has become more prevalent in Southland communities over the last few years.
Detectives believe the break-ins in the 17600 block of Palo Verde Avenue, along the city of Bellflower border, occurred while a section of the complex was being tented from Oct. 18-20, according to Lt. Jeff Deedrick of the Cerritos Sheriff's Station.
"The tent (covering each of the condos) was cut and the suspect(s) made entry into the homes," the lieutenant said, adding that the thefts likely took place overnight between 6 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
Deedrick said jewelry and cash were taken from three of the units, and that a fourth break-in was also under investigation.
Cerritos a Target for Residential Burglars
Although Cerritos has little violent crime, the city remains a hotbed for burglaries as sheriff's data shows a 20.30 percent increase (160 cases total) in residential break-ins through the end of August compared to the same 8-month time period last year (133 cases total). The 2012 weekly average for residential burglaries in the city is at 4.9 as of Oct. 14, according to the latest crime report.
Fumigation Burglaries a Growing Trend
Along with a rise in property crimes countywide, authorities have noted that homes undergoing fumigation have become a more common target for thieves. In Cerritos last year, an off-duty sheriff's sergeant shot and wounded two men after he allegedly caught the pair and a third man breaking into his tented home in the 12900 block of Glenda Street on the night of Oct. 5.
"Over the past few years there has been a slight increase in the amount of residential burglaries to homes that are being fumigated," Deedrick said.
According to authorities, workers initially tent a home, then leave it for several days so the chemicals have time to kill pests. A few days later, the workers will return and remove the tent. If people are seen "working" on the home after the initial tent set-up, witnesses should contact police.
Tips to Avoid Home Fumigation Burglary
To help prevent becoming a victim of such theft, Deedrick suggests that residents planning to have their homes tented, should prepare accordingly.
"We strongly encourage any Cerritos resident planning to fumigate their home to call the Cerritos Station ahead of time and request a patrol check," he said.
- Patrol checks also known as vacation checks can be requested by calling the station directly or by completing an online request on the city's website here: Vacation Security Check Request Form.
"Residents should also talk with their neighbors and ask them to report any suspicious activity seen near their home while it is being tented."
- Aside from asking neighbors to watch your home, residents are strongly encouraged to join Neighborhood Watch. To report suspicious activity or persons in your neighborhood, call the Cerritos Station at (562) 860-0044.
Additional Info on Fumigation Procedures
Here are some facts that can also be answered about the fumigation procedures:
* California Department of Consumer Affairs Structural Pest Control Board- Questions and Answers Regarding Fumigation For Pest Control
"Q. WHO CAN ENTER A STRUCTURE WHILE IT IS BEING FUMIGATED?
A. Chemicals used in fumigation are lethal! Exposure to fumigants in a structure being fumigated, even for a few minutes, will result in death or serious injury. Absolutely NO ONE can enter a structure until it has been certified safe for reentry by the licensee in charge of the fumigation. Warning signs are posted in plainly visible locations on or in the immediate vicinity of all entrances.
To ensure that even the owner or tenant cannot re-enter a structure, the company is required to put a secondary lock on all outside doors that only the company can open. These locks can be any device such as padlock, keyway lock or deadbolts from the inside which will prevent opening by anyone but the licensee in charge."