By Sharna Johnson, CNJ staff writer
A string of daring daylight burglaries means a new police task force for Clovis and a call for public help from law enforcement.
The special Clovis Police Department task force hit the streets Monday, following maps showing clusters of burglaries, knocking on doors and talking to neighbors.
Capt. Patrick Whitney said the task force — a group of seven officers — is split into two-man teams.
“We want to get the message out that we are looking for them (burglars) and we do need the community’s help,” Whitney said.
Burglaries are actually slowing down in August, Whitney said, with 13 for the first two weeks of the month compared to 73 in July.
But what concerns police is not necessarily the number, but the type.
About a dozen burglaries in the last month happened in broad daylight after suspects cased out their target, sometimes knocking on front doors to see if anyone was home.
Police are not sure if the method of operation indicates one group of suspects or if it’s simply a new technique being used to initiate burglaries.
Based on reports from residents, police believe the burglars offer residents who answer excuses for knocking, such as offering to mow lawns, even though they have no mowing equipment.
If no one answers, police believe the suspects break in through the back door.
Suspects likely call accomplices and walk out the back door with possessions, loading them in a waiting vehicle.
Last week in the middle of the day, a burglar entered a police officer’s home while his marked cruiser was parked in the driveway. Whitney said guns and valuables were stolen.
It’s one of many incidents that could easily have turned out tragic. And that’s what police hope to prevent, Whitney said, by getting word out and focusing officer attention on the problem.
Officers are concerned it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, he said.
“What’s going to wind up happening is they’re going to wind up going into one of these houses …Where somebody works nights. They’re going to break into somebody’s house and not think anybody’s there and they’re going to get shot,” he said.
“(Burglars) think it’s a game but people take it deadly serious. You break into their house and they’re going to shoot you. We’d rather not have that happen.”
Stacy Gutierrez said her teen children were home sleeping when someone tried to break into her home Friday morning.
With no car in the driveway, she said it probably looked like no one was home.
“I guess that’s when they think most people are at work,” she said.
The would-be burglar damaged the back door. But whether the suspect was startled or gave up because of the deadbolt, they didn’t gain entry, she said.
Gutierrez said two other residents in her neighborhood on Burro Trail weren’t so lucky.
It was the second time her property was violated. During a previous burglary, Gutierrez said the suspect also entered during daylight and stole jewelry and other valuables.
“I thought I lived in a good neighborhood. I used to leave my door unlocked… I don’t do that anymore,” she said.
Gutierrez said her family has take precautions by securing doors and other entry points well, but, “I don’t know really what else we can do. If they want in bad enough they’re going to get in.”
Whitney encouraged residents and workers who visit residential neighborhoods to call police if they see anything unusual.
Already task force members working the streets have received helpful information and even made a handful of unrelated arrests, he said.
The Aug. 7 arrest of Bobby Owen, a 25-year-old Clovis man, contributed to the recent drop in this month’s burglary numbers, Whitney said.
Owen escaped from custody Sunday but was recaptured hours later.
Court records show he is charged with multiple counts of burglary and larceny in addition to criminal damage and conspiracy.
• To report suspicous activity call the Clovis Police Department at 769-1921 or 911 in an emergency.