Burglaries, thefts build security concerns

Unknown suspects in separate incidents take items worth $7,300

By Lorenzo Morotti, Associate Editor

Construction equipment, maintenance tools, a Honda Civic used in classes and a golf cart were stolen from campus over the summer in separate incidents.

“All these are crimes of opportunity,” Police Services Lt. Thomas Holt said.

According to Police Service’s crime reports, this string of thefts (grand), and burglaries, at Contra Costa College have three things in common:

 The suspects have not yet been identified or caught.

Everything the unknown suspects stole was locked or chained.

Each incident happened late at night.

The total loss of four separate thefts and burglaries is valued at about $7,300.

About $5,300 of CCC’s property stolen, while Lathrop Construction Inc.’s losses was valued at $1,900.

The areas that were broken into were the Lathrop Inc. construction trailers in Lot 4 on Aug. 15, the Buildings and Grounds’ storage under the Comet Stadium bleachers on Aug. 4, the automotive services department’s vehicle yard on Aug. 2 and the Information Technology Department’s golf cart lock up near the Applied Arts Building on June 29.

 “In every one of these cases the stuff that was taken was in well-lit areas, chained or locked up,” Holt said. “We always say to not leave your valuables in plain view, but that does not apply here because the majority of what was stolen was college property and we do our best to make sure everything is locked up and well hidden.

“But all these thefts, and burglaries, could be related. Maybe they found our weak link.”

He said because the district cannot afford to hire more police officers to patrol the campus, there are times late at night when there are no officers on campus.

“We rely on outside police departments (San Pablo, and Richmond) to help us during that time,” he said. “We have a good relationship with them, but they can’t be everywhere at once.”

District Police Chief Edward Carney said the district is currently working on revamping the surveillance camera network on campus to prevent crimes and catch suspects in the future.

Carney said while the current system does deter people from committing crimes, the use of surveillance cameras as forensic evidence is not as effective because they are installed in only a few areas on campus.

He said a more complete and modern camera system would help identify suspects.

“It will be a giant circle starting on the outside of campus and moving inward to cover the entrances and parking lots,” Carney said. “At the same time, we will install cameras in interior of buildings and expand outward so we will have a whole network.”

While Holt agrees with Carney, he said a more immediate solution to stopping “crimes of opportunity” would be to hire more officers to patrol more frequently, and late at night as a relief position.

“Our staffing model right now is the problem. We need enough officers to start patrols earlier in the morning, and have another officer stay on campus later,” Holt said. “But this is not something we can do right away — we have to promote this at the district level.”


Looting Lathrop, Inc.

According to a Police Services Report, the suspect(s) broke into the Lathrop Construction Inc. trailers in Lot 4, adjacent to the Gymnasium, on Aug. 15.

“(The burglary suspects) ripped the side off of the building to get in,” Holt said. “They cut the side of the trailer open in the middle of the night.”

While the Lathrop, Inc. construction trailers are being torn down today, construction workers will be leaving without a $450 iPad, $250 Cannon point and shoot camera, a $350 video camera, various grinders, drills and saws valued at $500, two battery chargers valued at $210 and site equipment valued at about $100.

Critical Solutions Project Manager Alex Gourtzelis worked out of the Lathrop, Inc. trailers during the construction of the Campus Center and Classroom Project last semester.

“I heard they also ate some of their snack food,” Gourtzeliz said. “It is unfortunate people would break into the trailer. But normally, in cases like these, the company will deal with these losses through its insurance.”

While Lathrop, Inc. will be compensated, Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said the college is unable to mitigate its losses because its insurance policy does not cover losses under $10,000.


An inside job

Two STIHL chainsaws valued at $250 and a $400 leaf blower were stolen Buildings and Grounds Department storage lock up under the Comet Stadium bleachers, next to the Softball Field, on Aug. 4.

King said he reported the equipment missing around 10 a.m., but only because there was no evidence of a forced entry into the storage room.

“I think it was an inside job. It is sad that school property was taken because we are without a budget to buy more.”

He said the padlock was not broken and the door was intact.

“The chainsaws and leaf blower were hidden in the corner, and nothing else was taken,” he said. “Whoever it was knew exactly what they were going to steal.”

He said the only people on campus with a key to open those padlocks are in the athletic, the custodial departments, Buildings and Grounds and Police Services.

The lock has been replaced and one chainsaw has been purchased, King said.


Grand theft auto

Two other separate incidents thefts involved suspects breaking into the automotive services department’s vehicle yard to steal a 1994 Honda Civic LX sedan valued at about $1,500, and an Information Technology Department’s golf cart valued at about $3,000.

While Holt said the Civic was found, the golf cart is still missing since June 29.

Information Systems Manager James Eyestone said he reported the theft (grand) when he went to use in the morning.

“A cable locked it to the fence. The fence was cut multiple times to free the lock and unwrap the cable from the cart,” Eyestone said.

“It will cost about $3,000 to $4,000 to replace.”