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Wave of daytime burglaries hit west Lathrop

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POSTED April 10, 2009 4:12 a.m.
LATHROP – Residents living in the high-end Meritage subdivision homes near City Hall in Lathrop are asking for more police patrol in their neighborhood.

This after three burglaries occurred in a period of less than a month, with two of them happening just in the last two weeks “in broad daylight,” according to one of the victims who made the plea to the City Council Tuesday night.

“We need more police protection here in the west side of town,” said Cory Mateo who also lives in the same neighborhood but was not among the unfortunate victims.

In one small cul-de-sac alone, she said, three of the five houses were broken into resulting in the loss of several valuables, two handguns, and even a car parked in front one of the homes.

“Crime is rising and we have to stop (it). I don’t know which court would be next,” Mateo said.

“You never know which is next,” said Luz Rivera, a chemist working at a lab in San Jose whose house was broken into recently.

Her husband, who was recently laid off from his job, was not at home when the incident happened at daytime. In their case, the burglars broke into the home by forcing open a high window in the formal dining room. Just across the street from them, their neighbor’s car parked on the street was stolen in broad daylight just days before.

Both women asked for increased patrol in their residential areas, “if it’s not too much for our law enforcers to make sure we’re safe,” Mateo said.

 Mateo went as far as to say she never sees any police patrolling their neighborhood.

“What angers me is, crime is happening during the day,” she added.

“We have to stop this, please. It’s not just for me, it’s for the community. These residents work so hard to buy their homes and furnish them. We need (police) protection, otherwise we’ll lose our citizens. Then what happens to the city?” she asked before she addressed the council.

Rivera said she actually thought of moving out of town after being robbed.

“I told Cory, I’m leaving the house. My son is not comfortable here anymore. It’s sickening and I’m mad. They don’t have the right to get into anybody’s house. It’s sad and frightening,” said Rivera whose son, a senior at San Jose State, commutes to school during the week.

But the Meritage residents said they are not taking the crime incidents sitting down. On the contrary, their common experience is emboldening them to take action.

“I’m proposing a Neighborhood Watch. I’m gathering all my neighbors. We want to tell criminals that while they are watching us – because we know they are watching us – we are also watching them,” Mateo said.
Rivera said she will actively take part in helping organize a Neighborhood Watch.

 Councilman Robert Oliver said he sympathized with the Meritage homeowners having been a victim of burglary before, adding the worst part of this awful experience is the loss of peace of mind and sense of security.

Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal said the city is “taking a very tough approach on crime” and that public safety is their number one priority.

In response to Mateo and Rivera’s complaint about the lack of police patrol in their neighborhood, Mayor Kristy Sayles said, “our officers are working as hard as they can. Please stay in communication with our Police Services.”

She added, “I’m very sorry that this is happening to you.”

Lt. Chris Pehl of the Lathrop Police Services, said forming a Neighborhood Watch is “not that difficult.” All the residents need to do is contact the Community Resource Officer at the police station, he said. How soon it can be in place depends on how many neighborhood residents are involved.
He also gave the residents his business card.

Pehl said the Neighborhood Watch program is beneficial in that it teaches residents crime-prevention techniques among other things that they need to know and do to protect their safety and their properties.

Neighborhood Watch is not about self-policing but is a program that helps develop “extra sets of eyes in the community” and reporting suspicious incidents and persons to the police, Pehl said.
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