On the heels of a Sept. 16 break-in and robbery, the Santa Monica Music Center was hit again on Tuesday morning with a man throwing a fire extinguisher through a window and an accomplice entering and stealing multiple guitars.
For Co-owner and City Councilwoman Lana Negrete, the recent incidents add insult to injury, as her store is still recovering from last year’s one-two punch of pandemic-related closures and massive property damage due to the May 31 riots.
Camera footage from the most recent incident shows a man in a black and white check hoodie smashing the Santa Monica Blvd. facing window of the store at 2:39 a.m. Another man then entered the store through the window and stole two electric guitars, a bass guitar and some smaller musical tools.
Negrete discovered the break-in later in the morning and contacted SMPD Lieutenant Rudy Flores, who called dispatch for an additional officer. The crime scene was examined and the extinguisher was taken for fingerprinting and processing.
According to Flores, detectives are scrutinizing the footage and a Neighborhood Resource Officer will review the storefront to create a plan for crime prevention through environmental design.
“They look at pretty much everything from landscape to lighting to cameras, and then try to see how we can harden the target to minimize the chance of a crime occurring there,” said Flores.
The stolen instruments had been donated to the store a few days prior by Guitar Center in order to support Negrete’s non-profit organization, Outreach Through The Arts, which provides free music lessons to children from low-income families in the SMMUSD community.
“He literally stole the donated instruments for the kids that we just put up three days ago, because we’re having auditions for our rock band for these kids that can’t afford an instrument,” said Negrete. “The whole point is so that these kids can have their own instruments.”
Overall, Negrete said the incident will cost the store around $6,280, accounting for boarding up the hole; calling for temporary security; replacing the merchandise; getting an additional sensor; and repairing the door and glass. While this pales in comparison to the over $180,000 in damages caused by the May 31 looting, it is still a burden to the locally owned business and comes on top of around $4,450 in damages and repairs from the Sept. 16 incident.
According to Flores, on Sept. 16 at around 3:23 a.m., SMPD officers responded to a burglary at the Santa Monica Music Center, where they discovered that a window panel had been removed from the southeast corner of the store and several instruments taken.
The incident was reported by a woman living in her car next to the store, who said she witnessed two males on bicycles carrying guitars away from the business. Negrete was deeply grateful for this woman’s intervention and worked to help her find permanent housing through the Community Corporation of Santa Monica.
“I just decided at that point that… I can feel really sorry for myself or I can look at this as some sort of opportunity,” said Negrete. “I had just started the Homeless Ad Hoc (Committee) with City Council and here’s this woman telling me how the system has failed her, and I said ‘look I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but you’re never going to sleep in your car again’.”
Negrete said that her experiences as a small business owner in Santa Monica are a key part of what made her want to join City Council, both in regards to the struggles of staying afloat during normal economic periods and the specific challenges faced after the May 31 looting.
The two recent break-ins and her experience helping assist a woman move off of the streets, have further informed and fueled her civic agenda. In order to deter property crime, Negrete said she would like to see a stronger police presence throughout the City and help remove roadblocks to staffing the department with qualified individuals.
“In Santa Monica, the average is eight to nine months to pass background (checks) because we just don’t have enough people to process it,” said Negrete, adding that it takes around three months for people to pass background checks to get hired at police departments in Culver City or Beverly Hills. “So instead of putting our hands on our hips or throwing them up… we can hire more background check people to get to the people who are being hired.”
Negrete is also encouraging the woman who reported the September break-in to aid the work of Council’s Ad Hoc Homeless Committee by providing an inside perspective on what service providers and the City can do to better assist unhoused individuals.