Sheriff Ramps Up Traffic Stops in Wake of Home Invasions

Capt. Chris Blasnek

Stephanie Arnold said she’s gotten messages from eight people seeking advice about starting a Neighborhood Watch on their blocks since a pair of armed home invasions were reported last month in La Cañada Flintridge.
“Home invasion robberies are a next-level thing,” said Arnold, who’s captained her Neighborhood Watch group for the past year. “Something I really take a lot of pride in is that we are a safe town, and to see that bubble burst a little bit, I’m sad.”
Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Blasnek said he too has heard from many residents since masked men, allegedly armed with a handgun in both instances, were reported to have forced their way into a home in the 800 block of Inverness Drive on Dec. 12, and into another home in the 800 block of Flintridge Avenue on Dec. 31. The assailants allegedly tied up residents, ransacked their homes and made off with valuables.
“The main thing I want to tell the residents is: Trust in us,” said Blasnek on Monday, after returning from a day spent issuing evacuation orders in the Kagel Canyon area susceptible to mudslides. “We’re there for them all year long and we need them to be there for us now. We take it seriously and we’re going to do everything we can to catch these guys, and eventually, we will catch them.”
Blasnek said that, overall, the crime rate in the city remains low, but he appreciates how unnerved residents are. He said he is employing a multitude of tactics to catch the alleged perpetrators.
While he had no leads to report, Blasnek said he’s added extra units to “saturate the city,” and that the Crescenta Valley station is working with personnel from the department’s Major Crimes Bureau’s Burglary Crime Task Force. He said investigators are employing new technologies, including DNA analysis, in their work.
And he said he has a crime analyst in contact with LCF’s “sister cities” in the San Gabriel Valley that might have experienced similar crimes.
He said he also plans to increase traffic enforcement, which he believes could be what leads to arrests.
“I know they’re outsiders and we know one of the patterns they use is to use a rental vehicle and put paper plates on them,” Blasnek said. “That being the case, I’m directing deputies to begin making traffic stops on vehicles with no plates. I think we’re going to get lucky on a traffic stop.
“People might be unhappy they’re being stopped, but the California vehicle code says very clearly that you must display a vehicle license plate on your car. And I’m not talking about people driving home brand new cars, but the ones we see all the time who have [paper plates] to avoid red light cameras, or drive on the FasTrak for free, or I don’t know what they’re doing, but we’re stepping up enforcement on those vehicles with no license plates.”
Blasnek said recently three burglary suspects were caught in Glendale when police there made a traffic stop because the vehicle’s occupants were not wearing seatbelts, “and they still had pillow cases on their lap for the house they just burglarized.”
“In my opinion, that’s how we’re going to get these guys,” Blasnek said.
He also had suggestions for what residents might do, including being on the lookout — with an emphasis on look.
“Every day I drive through [the Flintridge] neighborhood in my unmarked car and every day I notice when I drive through with my windows down, that nobody wants to make eye contact with me,” Blasnek said. “I want to wave to them and engage them and talk and nobody will make eye contact. I want people to look up and look around and make eye contact. I want them to be alert. We always say, ‘See something, say something,’ but to see something you have to be watching.”
Arnold said the see-something, say-something practice is more difficult than it sounds.
“It’s hard to be that person who speaks up, you get judged — ‘why are you so paranoid?’,” she said. “Even when people see stuff that’s suspicious, they hesitate. They hesitate about being nosy, about being labeled a racist; they worry about calling into the sheriff’s department and getting snubbed.”
But she said awareness on her LCF block has increased since she established the Neighborhood Watch a year ago. She thinks more of those groups in LCF would help, as would better coordination between them.
“We’re getting to know our neighbors,” she said. “One of my elderly neighbors a month ago fainted in the front yard, and because our street has become more cohesive, people were looking out for her.”
Arnold said she’s always been observant and a few times a year finds reason to report things that strike her as suspicious, including the unfamiliar woman she observed hovering around mailboxes recently.
In the past week, Arnold posted contact information for city officials on social media sites, encouraging fellow LCF residents to call and communicate their public safety concerns.
“It’s not like they don’t know,” she said, “and, ultimately, I’m not an expert on the budget, but … I would love to figure out how the city can carve out more resources to protect the city.”
During last summer’s budget proceedings, the City Council approved $185,000 — an increase of $40,000 — to directed patrols, including a new community services assistant who should free up deputies to spend more time patrolling. That assistant will begin soon, Blasnek said.
Council members also approved $60,000 (with another $60,000 promised) toward a new mobile command post, to be used by CV Sheriff’s Station personnel in case of emergency and major operations. Also, council members OK’d the $5,000-per-year lease (for the next five years) of a mobile automatic license plate reader.
The city also negotiated a subsidy with Ring.com to provide residents with discounts on video doorbell security devices. In two phases, the city appropriated a combined $12,500 so 250 residents could take advantage of a $100 rebate on the device that normally costs $200.
Arnold said she’s heard complaints from fellow residents that the Sheriff’s Department has only two units patrolling LCF, which she would consider “super concerning.” But Blasnek said that’s not a fair assessment.
“I would never say we only have two cars in the area,” he said, noting that his station has the lowest response times in the county — arriving at a destination in less than four minutes for emergencies, in seven minutes for priority calls and in between 11-15 minutes for routine calls. Any type of felony call is considered an emergency.
“The city has given me every resource they can, including a budget to combat crime when it occurs at certain times,” he said. “I saw one email from somebody who went on to say, ‘We’re one major crime away from upheaval in this city.’
“So I want [residents] to remember the crime is still extremely low in La Cañada every month. It’s a safe city. We’ve had two home invasions, and we’re on it, and we’ll continue to stay on it; we won’t rest until we catch these guys, but crime is not off the charts in La Cañada.”

Leave a Reply