Police offer tips to help thwart home burglars

By From page A1 | March 28, 2014

28 les johnson web

In this Wednesday photo, Les Johnsen stands by the window in his kitchen where a robber broke into his home in Fairfield. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Les Johnsen had just finished his jog and was taking a shower when the doorbell rang. He looked out an upstairs window of his Fairfield home to see who it was, but no one was there.

“So I continued to dress and then heard a crash downstairs,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen armed himself and started to walk down the stairs, only to see a female stranger in the front room “standing there and looking at the TV.” The woman, Johnsen later learned, had gone to the back of the house after ringing the doorbell and come in through an unlocked kitchen window.

He held her at gunpoint and called the police, but the women managed to slip out the front door and started walking down the street. Johnsen followed her, keeping in contact with the dispatcher.

Police quickly swooped in from both ends of the street and took the woman into custody.

“We have an alarm system, but I didn’t set it because I was at home,” Johnsen said.

The sense of violation the Johnsens felt prompted them to improve their alarm system and “we now routinely check to make sure all windows are locked,” said wife June Johnsen.

The crime also prompted Les Johnsen to stop jogging.

The Johnsens were one of 735 burglaries that were committed in Fairfield last year, a number that has steadily increased since 2011, according to Fairfield Police Department statistics. Neighboring cities have shown similar rises in this common property crime.

One good way to keep burglars out of your house to make it look like you are home, Fairfield Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Jeff Conner said.

Conner finds its ironic that at neighborhood watch meetings, a majority of people raise their hands when he asks how many people don’t answer the door when a solicitor comes by their house. Sometimes that solicitor is really a burglar, checking to see if anyone is home.

“When people remain silent in their homes, a half-hour later, they have someone come in through a back window or look in through a window and that causes a lot more problems,” Conner said.

Vacaville Crime Prevention Officer Gretchen Ash further said that all solicitors selling goods or services in that town must have a permit issued by the police.

“Be wary of anyone who knocks on your door asking for a nonexistent person,” Ash said. “Call the police immediately. They could be casing the area.”

Making eye contact and simply saying hello to anyone coming into your neighborhood helps, since potential burglars done like being noticed, Ash said. Calling on any suspicious activity gives police officers probable cause to stop that person, Ash said.

“You have to make sure your home looks occupied,” Conner said. “You can just answer through the door that you are busy or that they can leave their card and you will get back to them.”

Most burglars don’t want any kind of obstacle in their way, whether it’s an alarm, a light, a dog or anything else that may complicate what could be quick in-and-out crime.

Conner recommends that homeowners look over their house like a burglar would, looking for those dark spots without any light, trees with low canopies that conceal a house from the street or those overgrown bushes that give a criminal cover while breaking in.

“Lighting. I can’t talk enough about lighting, especially sensor lighting,” Conner said. “If an area is dark and suddenly a light comes on, that can do a lot (to dissuade a possible burglar). If I see a light go on, I poke my head out and see what it is.”

Ensure that newspapers are collected and bring in trash toters – every little bit helps. A video surveillance system doesn’t hurt, either.

The majority of crimes are crimes of opportunity, Conner said.

“You want to slow them down as much as possible. Look at your locks. Do you have an alarm system set?” Conner said. “There is a lot of technology out there, such as cameras that can detect motion and they can even email you on your smartphone when they are set off.”

“Lock your doors and windows when you are not at home,” Ash said. “Many times, a back door or window is simply left open and the burglar walks right in.”

Ash further recommends never hiding a key outside the house, since “the bad guys know all the hiding spots.” She recommends leaving one with a trusted neighbor instead.

“The key is not to rely on just one thing,” Conner said. “If so, you are setting yourself up to fail. Do things in conjunction with other precautions.”

Another important ingredient is to find out if your neighborhood has a neighborhood watch program. If it does, get involved with it, Conner said. Fairfield has more than 80 active neighborhood watch groups that meet at least once a year and that the Police Department supports.

“Who better than you neighbor to help you watch your home?” Conner said.

The neighborhood watches, in turn work, with police to keep their neighborhoods safe, he said.

Conner recommends that homeowners write down and keep on file the serial numbers on any valuables that might be taken such as televisions, computers and iPads – just in case they become victims.

“It is a better chance for them to be recovered,” Conner said.

Burglaries, like most crimes, are cyclical. Property crimes such as burglaries have risen recently. Conner said one of the contributing factors is the recent release of prisoners from state prison, “and it is affecting all of the cities in this state.”

“It is up to the local police to handle that and we have not gotten the funding we need to deal with that,” Conner said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.

Discussion | 19 comments

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  • Skeptic ScroogeMarch 28, 2014 - 3:09 am

    So quit allowing homeless shelters to expand downtown if you cant afford it! Where do you think people go when released from prison? Now you have three shelters within a block of the government center. Those are full of freshly released prison inmates ready to rob because they dont have a stick to stand on, so you give em one, and then you're shocked they used that same stick to bust your window??

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  • LoveMyCommunityMarch 28, 2014 - 3:37 am

    What 3 shelters have expanded downtown?

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 28, 2014 - 6:10 am

    And the third little piggy said : ''Not by the hair of my chiny chin chin big bad wolf---you're not getting in''.

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  • CD BrooksMarch 28, 2014 - 6:48 am

    This is a good story. She got caught and he did not shoot her. Mr. Johnsen should be commended for his actions.

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  • Tax payerMarch 28, 2014 - 7:00 am

    CD, crime drops significantly when one of them is shot inside of someone else's residence.

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  • Mayor SanchezMarch 28, 2014 - 7:05 am

    It's really scary when a burglar still breaks into your home even when you have an alarm sign in front and sticker signs on windows. I moved here in 1983 because my Oakland home was burglarized at daytime . Now 30 years later the problem is here.

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  • The MisterMarch 28, 2014 - 8:23 am

    I'm starting to see a pattern with you, Mayor. Where you go, crime follows. Hmmmm

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  • Mr.RMarch 28, 2014 - 8:31 am

    Gee Mr Mayor. Maybe our elected officials should be working on solution.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 28, 2014 - 9:58 am

    Thank you Mayor Sanchez. And if you remember, (see video below) I addressed you and your horrible police department in early June 2011 regarding this and other salient issues. You and your government seemed to be totally unaware and shortly thereafter, your police department used the reverse 911 system to notify residents of the yet to be abated burglary crime spree, remember??? See for yourself sir! The problem still exists and furthermore, your city's officials seem to be doctoring the daily police blotter press releases too! When may we expect relief and transparency? http://youtu.be/70zQVkzdqbw

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 28, 2014 - 10:08 am

    Again, the typical modus opporendi of these loathsome burglars seems to be to work in pairs with one of the perps posted as a lookout on the street with a cell phone and the other burglar knocking on the victim's front door first to see if someone is home before hopping the fence and gaining forced entrance in the back of the victim's home. If the victim-to-be answers the door knock then the perp will say "is so-and-so here?". Should that nonsensical knock happen to you, call the police immediately! Most of these burglaries are occurring between 10 am and 12 noon. If they break into your home while you're there, you're on your own. Nobody is going to help you. Your last thoughts will be "I should have voted Republican!" Why wait for this eventuality to happen? Wars, calamities, disasters, catastrophes and contingencies are all "come as you are" affairs----ready or not!

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  • Danny BuntinMarch 28, 2014 - 5:16 pm

    Yeah, that will help. I will just whip out my GOP card and all will be well. I have such fond memories when all three branches were GOP controlled. Zero crime, zero deficits, zero war, zero unemployment, hydrocarbons were free and we all had health care. This is what happens when you live in the bubble, mixed with a little crazy.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 28, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    As you were saying Danny? With 3 California Rat Political Party Senators off to the pokey, perhaps you look to them for your example, eh, Danny?

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 28, 2014 - 6:50 pm

    And your point is Danny?

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  • P.J.March 28, 2014 - 8:12 am

    I have noticed in the last several months people out with strollers. I've had a couple come to my door. One evening recently I noticed a woman across the street with a stroller. She kept walking back and forth. I was leaving, but decided to stick around, so I pulled over and watched. She kept looking in the stroller. Finally, she went into the house. I realized she was walking the baby back and forth until it fell asleep. But, how sad that an innocent action has made me scared to leave my own house. Seems I'm constantly having new neighbors!

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  • The MisterMarch 28, 2014 - 8:21 am

    In Vacaville all solicitors selling goods or services must have a permit issued by the police... but non-profit, church, political, etc., people can still come to your door without any background check or permit by the police. Also, people doing commercial activities, such as placing door-hangers can go to your front door without a permit (they just can knock or ring the bell). Be aware and be prepared when you answer your door.

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  • David SoxMarch 28, 2014 - 8:59 am

    Responding to Skeptic, I doubt most burglars are homeless. Burglars need places to quickly hide their stolen goods and probably a vehicle close by to carry enough goods and move them quickly away from the scene of the crime.

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  • CD BrooksMarch 28, 2014 - 9:59 am

    Sorry FPD with all due respect, it seems we get a lot of advice and not much else. Sure there are things we need to do to help ourselves, but ultimately we count on you to get the bad guys. I feel like the Chief is removing our Police from enforcement at every level. I mostly speak to traffic issues because IMO, that is what's causing most of our problems and could prevent much of what is going on. I support you, I’m on record as willing to raise taxes to provide you with the resources you need. I know you have a difficult job and you can't be everywhere. I know you guys/ladies read this stuff and I am often critical. But as a law-abiding citizen I am frustrated as I’m certain others are as well, and I really don't see much to relieve me of that concern.

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  • Dexter FowlerMarch 28, 2014 - 3:10 pm

    If this lowlife has chosen to do this at my house she would have been shot. If I hear glass breaking and see a stranger in my house I am shooting. Period end of story.

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  • Kene WinstonMarch 28, 2014 - 11:05 pm

    how do you get rid of felony stockers?

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