CHS students question the safety of Calabasas after recent robberies

On Sept. 14 and 16, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies caught three of the four suspects in a Calabasas home invasion.

Police are identifying the men as Vernell White, Michael Robinson and Carl DeLoach. According to CBS News, all three men are gang members from South Los Angeles with extensive criminal records. The fourth suspect has yet to be found.

“They were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping for the purpose of robbery, home-invasion robbery and residential burglary with a criminal street gang participation enhancement,” said local authorities.

White, Robinson, DeLoach, and one other man are suspected of posing as construction workers and burglarizing a Calabasas home on Charlestown Drive, stealing over $200,000 worth of cash and merchandise. According to a sheriff’s statement, the criminals violently attacked the resident after entering the house, assaulting him and tieing him up. When another member of the home returned home later, the robbers tied and beat her up as well.

“I was home when it happened,” said senior Amanda Solley, whose house neighbors the robbed home. “It could have easily been my house. There’s been construction across the street from me for months, so if there was a construction worker knocking on my door, I would have answered it thinking maybe I had to move my car or something. I’m so lucky.”

The Charlestown Drive robbers are considered “knock-knock” burglars—those who seek to confront the residents of the house face to face in order to scope out the premises and obtain an understanding of who is generally home at what time. Most thieves who fall under this category aim to avoid physicality with the residents. Instead, they hope to find nobody home—typically in the early afternoon—so they can break in without much obstruction. The Charlestown Drive burglars portrayed a rare sense of aggression and force.

Even though these criminals were caught, an epidemic of carjackings and home invasions—normally cases of petty theft—has swept across the West Valley suburbs lately, afflicting homes in Mulwood and Las Villas Calabasas, as well as homes in gated communities such as Calabasas Hills, Creekside and Bellagio. Calabasas residents, including CHS students, reported that these incidents make them feel less safe in a city that prides itself on a low crime rate.

“There were about 30 cars in Bellagio that were broken into,” said CHS senior Syrus Amirian, a Bellagio resident. “My brother’s car was broken into. Apparently, some kids went around one night and took things from every unlocked car in the community.”

Despite the claims of the community’s residents, Bellagio security guard Ray Hendrix guarantees that there have been no burglaries behind his gates in recent years. However, he recommends that people, especially children and teenagers, learn basic home security protocol to protect themselves and their homes.

“If you don’t know the person, don’t let them in,” said Hendrix. “If you live behind a gate, make sure you know who you’re putting on your list. We don’t know what people are posing as, but we do check every utility man, uber driver, etcetera.”

As a result of numerous burglaries over the course of several months, many gated communities have ramped up security measures, introducing new policies and regulations. Nevertheless, residents of these neighborhoods question if upgraded security systems are truly improving the safety of their streets.

“Calabasas Hills is hard to get into by car if you aren’t on a list,” said resident and CHS senior Daniel Edmond. “But if you are on foot, you can easily sneak in. The gate has about six cameras which can easily be avoided, plus the patrol car isn’t very active at night.”

To illustrate, Edmond admitted to even sneaking into his own gate after taking a walk around the neighborhood. Whatever the reason, no home, regardless of how many walls it sits behind, is exempt from burglary.

“We must be aware of who is at the door,” said Solley. “Even though we live in a safe neighborhood, bad things still happen. So be cautious, especially when home alone.”