The break-in was brazen to say the least.
In black and white home surveillance video, two young men casually peruse through Jason McBride’s belongings, seemingly taking their time as they pick out jewelry and electronics.
The two men take their time. McBride believes they were on the phone with a lookout parked on the street. At one point during the burglary, one of the men walks into the kitchen and helps himself to a glass of water.
“These people are just going through, disregarding who I am,” McBride said.
It was early March, and McBride and his wife were out to dinner on Abbot Kinney. McBride had installed a surveillance system in his home on 18th Avenue called Canary after his place was broken into in December that provides a live video feed to his cell phone. But while he was having dinner, McBride ignored the alert on his phone that there had been movement inside his house since his cats are known to set it off.
After an otherwise quiet dinner, McBride came home around 10:45 p.m. to a mess.
“Everything was still locked up that I could see from the front,” McBride said. “I notice some stuff was out of place and we walked into the bedroom and stuff was all over the place.”
McBride was one of four homes hit between 6 and 10 p.m. in Sunset Park that night, according to Lt. Rodriguez with the Santa Monica Police Department. While surveillance video can help catch a criminal, Rodriguez says it was the forensics department that sealed the deal for one suspect in the McBride break-in. A fingerprint linked the crime to a man from Long Beach who already had an outstanding warrant.
This week, more than a month after the break-ins, 26-year-old Jonathan Thomas was arraigned on two counts of residential burglary. Lt. Rodriguez says some of the stolen property has been recovered in Las Vegas, where the suspect allegedly tried to pawn it. Police hope this first arrest will lead to more, but it hasn’t done much to restore McBride’s sense of security.
“We’ve kind of moved on past that stuff,” McBride said after the arrest. “I sure have been hearing a lot more about things going on in the neighborhood here, particularly with car break-ins.”
Despite neighborhood concerns, Lt. Rodriguez says a review of SMPD’s internal crime map does not show a definable trend or crime spike in the Sunset Park area. Instead, a perceived spike may be related to a larger trend in property crime – Part 1 crimes were up nearly 17 percent in Los Angeles County from 2015 to 2016. During the same period, burglaries in Santa Monica were actually down – 623 from 660 incidents in 2015, while car break-ins were up – 1153 from 914 incidents in 2015.
As of April 10, 2017, there had been 111 residential burglaries in Santa Monica, 51 commercial burglaries and 364 car break-ins, according to statistics provided by SMPD. Police believe decreased penalties for low-level offenders are contributing to the regional spike.
The statistics offer no solace to residents noticing a growing problem in their neighborhood.
“This is new,” McBride said, who has lived in the neighborhood for about twenty years. Before the recent break-ins he can only remember someone stealing a bike after leaving his garage door open for a few hours, “I’ve never had a burglar alarm here or anything like that.”
In December McBride’s home was broken into and the thief or thieves made off with jewelry. Within thirty minutes of discovering the March break-in, detectives came to his home and took pictures and collected evidence. A few weeks later he took advantage of a free service from SMPD to inspect his home for vulnerabilities. After his most recent experience, McBride prefers a strategy that prevents burglaries in the first place.
“I would prefer to not have to think about these things at all,” McBride said. “I gotta tell you, we feel like when we’re going to go out for a movie or something…we feel like we’ve got to go home or we’re going to be ripped off.”
An officer who looked at McBride’s house suggested he replace any door locks near windows with a deadbolt that requires a key from both the inside and out so if someone breaks the glass, they still can’t easily unlock the door and walk inside. The police department also recommends motion-censored lights that might spook an opportunistic thief.
Finally, if you’re going to install a surveillance system, put a camera on the outside where the thief can see they are on camera before they walk inside. It may make them think twice before taking that next step.