Two 9-year-old Sepulveda boys, arrested for attempted burglary after one got stuck in the chimney of a house, were charged Wednesday with committing a series of residential burglaries, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.
The boys have admitted stealing clothing and an undetermined amount of cash in seven residential break-ins in their Sepulveda neighborhood between Dec. 19 and Tuesday, Los Angeles police said.
Although one homeowner reported $3,800 worth of jewelry missing and another said $500 in cash was taken, the boys denied taking jewelry and said they used the money they got merely to play video games, Detective Richard Schauer said.
Schauer said both boys were concerned about their parents finding out about the burglaries.
A Sylmar Juvenile Court judge is scheduled to decide today whether the boys, who were not identified because of their age, should be returned to their parents pending trial on the charges. They are being held without bail in Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
One Boy Stuck for 3 Hours
The boys, who police said are close friends and fourth-grade classmates at Plummer Elementary School in Sepulveda, were arrested Tuesday after firefighters rescued the boy who was wedged for three hours in the chimney of a house in the 15000 block of Sunburst Street in Sepulveda.
Police said the boy had slid down the chimney to break into the house, copying a technique he had seen on television. Firefighters were forced to drill a hole in the chimney before they pulled out the boy, screaming and covered with soot, about 12:30 p.m. He suffered only minor cuts.
The boy who was rescued was charged with two counts of burglary, Deputy Dist. Atty. Jerry Bowes said. The other boy, who called a police emergency number when he could not extricate his friend, was charged with four counts of burglary and one count of attempted burglary, he said.
Although the boys said they acted as a team, the charges differ because authorities believe there would be a problem getting some of their evidence admitted in court, Bowes said. He did not elaborate.
Police said that the investigation is continuing and that more charges may be filed. Of the burglaries described by the boys, police have confirmed that five occurred and are searching for proof of two others, Detective Mike Kellerman said.
If the boys are convicted, the judge could release them to their parents on probation, sentence them to county Juvenile Hall or the California Youth Authority, or place them in foster homes, Bowes said.
Schauer said the boys have been "very truthful with us about everything they've done." He said they are "not street-wise enough" to know how to sell stolen goods through "fences" and that "they weren't being taught by someone: 'This is what you do and how you do it.' "
"We've arrested 9-year-olds for burglary before. It's not a big problem but it happens once or twice a year," Schauer said. "It's not an unusual thing to find young kids supporting an arcade habit."
He said children of similar age also have been arrested for shoplifting and forgery.
'Not Unheard of'
"It is not usual but it's not unheard of at all. Just about any type of crime, we're going to get a young kid sooner or later that's going to be involved in it," Schauer said. "They live in the big city just like the rest of us. They think of strange things to do just like any other person. They're not infallible. They make mistakes."
Schauer said the burglaries were committed during school hours or immediately before or after school. Plummer Elementary School officials would not discuss the boys.
The boys were arrested last week on suspicion of stealing $500 on Dec. 20 from a Sepulveda home. A neighbor saw and recognized one of the boys, leading to the arrest of both last week. Because it was a first offense, they were released to their parents pending investigation by the Los Angeles County Probation Department, Schauer said.