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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

5 Teenagers Arrested in Burglaries of 20 Homes

Crime: Police say the boys, including two 13-year-olds, stole video games, compact disc players and trading cards.

May 26, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT and MIKE McCARTHY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SIMI VALLEY — Police have busted a burglary ring in which five teenage boys, including three 13-year-olds, have allegedly broken into more than 20 homes since last December, authorities said Thursday.

The suspects, a group of friends that also includes two 15-year-olds, were arrested during the past two weeks at their homes or while walking in the city, Simi Valley police officials said.

The older teens attend Apollo Continuation High School, and the younger ones are registered at Valley View Junior High, police said. Two of the boys, 15 and 13, are brothers.

The loot seized at some of their residences includes video game stations, compact disc players and trading cards, police said.

After being arrested, each boy was interviewed and released to his parents.

Multiple counts of burglary are expected to be filed against the teens during the next two weeks, police said. Detectives have not yet forwarded their case to prosecutors because they are still reviewing additional burglary reports and more arrests are possible.

"We don't know how big this one is yet," said Simi Valley Police Sgt. Robert Gardner. "[Detectives] have more suspects they are looking at."

Gardner said the ages of the suspects and the severity of the crimes were troubling to law enforcement officials in a city that prides itself on being one of the safest in the nation.

"The fact that there are a lot of kids involved is unusual," he said. "This just doesn't happen in Simi Valley a lot."

According to authorities, the teens live in the same general neighborhood, within about a mile of one other, and have known one another for several months. At least two of the 13-year-olds have been suspended from school since being arrested, according to Lt. Ken Tacke.

The academic status of the other three was not available, but a source outside the Police Department who is familiar with the case said one of the five teenagers is enrolled in a local program for troubled youths.

Although the crimes are widespread and serious, authorities said the burglary ring was far from sophisticated. The boys didn't sit around and plot times, dates and places, but instead allegedly acted whenever the opportunity arose, officials said.

"It doesn't appear they were scheduling these events," Sgt. Ron Chambers said.

According to Chambers, the boys worked in pairs or as a trio to burglarize homes, most of which are near Tapo and Cochran streets, although a few were in another neighborhood.

Most of the break-ins were done during the day, which led police to believe the teens may have been ditching classes to search for houses where a sliding glass door or a window was unlocked.

"I would venture to say they should have been in school instead of doing this," Chambers said.

In some cases, a door lock had been broken to gain entry, Chambers said.

Once inside, the suspects reportedly stole only those items they really wanted and could stash in pockets or under clothes and carry with little difficulty, police said.

So far, searches at the suspects' homes after their arrests have turned up more than $4,000 worth of stolen property, including skateboards, video games, cameras and jewelry.

"They were relatively cautious about what they took," Chambers said.

In one burglary, $400 in cash was taken, and in another, Pokemon trading cards valued at $400 were stolen, police said. In some cases, stolen property was resold by the suspects, Chambers said.

He said the boys made no attempt to hide the stolen goods, adding that most of the items police recovered sitting out in the open in bedrooms.

Police cracked the case with the help of witnesses who allegedly saw some of the boys near homes that were broken into.

*

Wolcott reported from Ventura and McCarthy reported from Simi Valley.

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