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Rash of Burglaries—Police Urge Residents to Report Strangers Who Knock on Door

El Cerrito police report several daytime residential burglaries recently and advise residents to install burglar alarms and to inform police of unfamiliar vehicles, suspicious activity or strangers who knock at the door.

Several residential burglaries have occurred in El Cerrito in the past few weeks, and many of them have been similar, with the break-ins occurring during the day, said.

"Most of the burglaries have occurred in the residential hill area of the city," police said a news release Tuesday. "Only a few witnesses have provided information about possible suspects, describing groups of two or three young African American or Hispanic males."

Police encouraged anyone with information about the crimes or possible suspects to contact El Cerrito police. Information on the location and dates of the burglaries can found on CrimeReports.com, police said. 

Police offered the following recommendations to prevent home burglary:

  • Install an audible burglar alarm, and activate it when you are away.
  • Never leave any doors or windows unsecured, even when you are home. 
  • Become acquainted with your neighbors and their vehicles.
  • Contact the El Cerrito Police Department immediately (510-237-3233, option 2) to report any people or vehicles that are unfamiliar or out of place, or any other suspicious activities. 
  • If anyone knocks at your door or rings your bell, they may be trying to ascertain if anyone is home before attempting to burglarize your home. If you are home, do not open the door to a stranger. Announce your presence through your locked door, and call police immediately to report the incident. When you speak with the police dispatcher, be prepared to provide any description you may have of the suspect(s), any vehicles, and what direction they were headed as they left.

Police said any information should be referred to Detective Joshua Del Prado at 510-215-4422.

Michael M April 06, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Are we really at the point as a society where we can't open our doors to strangers? What is going to happen in the next earthquake when we really do need to open our doors to strangers? We need to come together as neighbors and support safety as a community rather than hunkering down as individuals behind locked gates and locked doors. If I were to call the police every time a "stranger" walked by or parked on my street, they would be here a dozen times a day! We should not rely on the police for our safety entirely, although they enforce the law - the community is what makes us safe.
wannablamorinda April 06, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Our home and neighbor's home were burgled this way last August, tossing the house and taking laptops and their power cables. A twenty-ish African American woman knocked on the door asking for directions to a street that was not even close by, and did not seem to care about the answer. Next day, we were robbed. The neighbors had been robbed the same way two weeks prior.
Michelle Cammack April 06, 2011 at 04:33 PM
We have had several robberies on our street two weeks ago. There was a gentleman standing in front of our house looking very out of place. Definitely didn't look like the average person taking a leisurely walk or walking to bart like I often see. I ignored my instincts and didn't report it. Luckily my neighbour did because a house two down from us was robbed. I should have called the police immediately. It's better to be safe than sorry and deter those individuals from the area. Once one house on the block is targeted EVERY house on that block is at risk. I love my neighbor as he really is our eyes when we are at work. Thankfully I have an alarm and a VERY mean and large dog!
Jason Schwager April 06, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Michael, your level and healthy points of view are the synaptic network holding America together. While it's true crime persists, as there has been for all human history, fighting it with a paranoia like isolationism, is the surrogate of fear. Extremes steal balance from healthy society. SUGGESTION: for those who just cannot open their doors to strangers or talk, you might keep an inexpensive digital camera nearby and shoot every stranger at your door, noting the date/time. Upload those to the El Cerrito police or store them remotely from your home (Google.com and other internet services work for this) for later recall if needed. This allows you to address your fear, take protective action, and rather than existing in fear behind locked gates, you can return to living fully in the world. I am a real estate agent with Better Homes & Gardens Mason McDuffie in El Cerrito and often call at home owner's doors. I carry a cellphone. When I see suspicious activity in our neighborhoods, I report it. With my suggestion, I now hope those who are worried, will take my picture. I will even give you a business card to go with it, if you ask. El Cerrito is a great town. Let's keep it a healthy community. -jason
Renate Valencia April 06, 2011 at 06:56 PM
There's a happy medium between isolationism and opening the door to anyone. Keeping your home secure is the smart thing to do. When someone I don't know knocks on my door for no apparent reason, I do not open it, but talk to them through the door. I also think you have to listen to the little voice inside you that tells you something might be wrong when you see people loitering about and they seem up to no good. Calling this in protects you and your neighbors. Not so wonderful, but it's reality. My Mother (over 70) was attacked by two teens on Fairmount about two years ago—knocked down and injured to get her bag. She has also almost been mugged a couple of times since then, but ran and reached helped before they got to her. This is a wonderful community, yes, but you have to keep your eyes and ears open. I also have an alarm system and an Akita—who is visible in the window to anyone passing the house. The Akita may help more than the alarm system :-)
Marty April 06, 2011 at 09:09 PM
I suggest using the ECHS and PMS yearbooks for the photo lineup. Twenty years ago my house was broken into during school hours by two PMS kids. Fortunately my neighbor called the cops and they were arrested. One of them was a no-show at the hearing, and the public defender said she had no idea where he was and she was worried about his well-being. Amazing. He's probably in San Quentin now.
Chris April 07, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Some of us on Glen Mawr Avenue use hidden cameras to photograph people in their cars, on the street and on our property. -- Chris
Ian April 14, 2011 at 07:35 PM
There have also been "several" daytime burglaries in the Richmond Annex recently, which may be related. Would be great to see some details!
Slip Mahoney April 14, 2011 at 08:13 PM
These are serious and, potentially, life-threatening crimes; I am not comforted by the fact that the police seemed to be focused on the low hanging fruit of law enforcement... cell phone and curbed wheel violations, all of which, of course, add money to the city's coffers.
Steve April 15, 2011 at 04:15 AM
My experience has been that ECPD has responded very quickly to calls of all variety. And when I've checked the stats for El Cerrito over the last decade I see that more people are killed in traffic accidents than from murder so I'm comforted by the fact that traffic enforcement continues to be one of El Cerrito's priorities.
Slip Mahoney April 15, 2011 at 02:31 PM
I certainly agree with Steve regarding after-the-fact response time; but, there have been 47 traffic related fatalities since between 1975 and 2009; further, there is NO significant change in the rate of those fatalities since the advent of cell phones. In 2009, alone, robberies, burglaries and aggravated assaults totaled 365 !!!! Is it reasonable to put new focus on cell phone violations? When was it that the ECPD did not have a "Zero Tolerance" on cell phone violations and what was the policy if it wasn't "Zero Tolerance"?? I support the ECPD 1000%, but let's define the announced focus of law enforcement in terms of something other than raising money.
John Stashik April 15, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Playing with a cell phone while driving can kill innocent people. Therefore, diligent enforcement of the law is appropriate, as many drivers seem to lack common sense. Stand along the Avenue and watch the morons as they drive, completely ignoring pedestrians even at the new safety crosswalks. As for the ECPD response to crimes in progress, it seems quick to me. The department -- at this point -- can both enforce traffic laws as well as handle burglary and robbery calls. When there is a call, the police seem to know how to prioritize. That's their job. We're lucky in El Cerrito.
Dorothy Coakley April 15, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Yearbooks? Nope, the good kids stay in school. Better chance of finding your miscreant in the mugshots at the police station.
DM April 24, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Quite a while back, I had a stranger ring my doorbell. Of note, I live on the 3rd floor of an apartment house. I did not open the door but asked her through the door what she wanted. She said her car was disabled and she wanted to come in and use my phone to call her husband. I said she could not come in but advised that if she gave me her husband's phone number, I'd call him myself. She did insisted to come in and I apologized and went back to my apartment. A few months later a woman (not sure if it was the same woman as I did not look out my peephole) rang my door and said she desperately needed to use my restroom. I again, talked to her through my door and did not open it. I advised that she could not come in but there as a gas station less than a block away with their own restroom. Of note, I noticed that she did not ring the doorbells of the other tenants on my floor or on the floor below. Whether you are a man or woman, not opening the door is a safe way to talk to a stranger, at least in my opinion. Had the woman said she was being harassed by a another person and needed to come in for security, I would have called 911 for her but still would not have let her in. It is always best to opt on the side of caution whether you are a 70 yr old female who lives alone like me or a young man or woman with a family.

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