Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Blasnek, with not even a month of the new job under his belt, admitted he was in the hot seat at the City Council meeting this week.
A handful of La Cañada Flintridge residents pleaded with city officials to take action against residential burglaries and other crimes. One resident even called for the formation of LCF’s own police department.
“One burglary is too many for the city,” said Blasnek, sympathizing with residents. “Even though you can’t prevent them all and can’t be perfect.”
Dan Khatchaturian was the first resident to speak during the open comments portion of the meeting, detailing how he and his family returned to his home last week to find his master bedroom ransacked.
“It’s a safe, beautiful, loving community” the 20-year LCF resident said. “The people who live here are awesome. Unfortunately, we’re being targeted by our neighboring communities.”
Khatchaturian said burglars are getting smarter and seek out homes with their lights turned off and find ways to scale to the second floors, which often bypass home security systems that are based on the ground floor, in hopes of finding valuables in master bedrooms.
“They’re targeting the master bedroom because they’re hoping there is no motion sensor that will trigger an alarm,” he said. “It’s a very violating feeling. I wasn’t able to sleep for a couple of days. I think we need to do more to get these guys.”
Pointing out the city’s healthy financial state, Khatchaturian called for the use of undercover deputies and additional cameras to help track vehicles suspected to be used for burglaries. He pointed out that, fortunately, no residents have been physically harmed as a result of burglaries.
“It’s just a matter of time until that does happen,” he added.
Another resident, Dena Snedden, said she and her family were on vacation for spring break when their home was burglarized. This was the third act of thievery affecting her family, she said, with the others being mail theft and a vehicle burglary “the one night I parked in front of my house [on the street].”
These burglars weren’t fazed by the plethora of security measures at her home and took care to not look at the camera. Regardless, the suspects covered their faces and used gloves.
“A camera doesn’t scare them,” she said. “They were highly organized thieves who had at least one getaway car. They got away with close to $25,000 of my jewelry.”
Snedden noted that deputies from the Crescenta Valley station took 30 minutes to respond to the burglary call and was surprised to learn responding deputies did not immediately have the ability to fingerprint a scene. She said she has spoken with deputies from this station and the one in Altadena, who told her several groups of criminals have regularly targeted the area and will be difficult to apprehend.
“We love our sheriffs,” she said. “We love our law enforcement, but they have told me, personally, they cannot keep up with the rising crime. They are outnumbered, understaffed and under-resourced.”
With that, she called for the creation of a LCF police department.
“It can be a small core of gentlemen and women with steady, swift response to crimes and other law enforcement of this nature,” Snedden said. “If we have that, I believe we will be safer.”
Blasnek, who was on hand for a public safety update, addressed concerns after everyone spoke. He mentioned that he, too, has been a victim of identity theft, once had a car stolen and added his wife is still upset about a Christmas wreath stolen off their front door 20 years ago.
“I get it,” Blasnek said. “It’s too much and I’m on it. We’re going to do everything we can. I believe the sheriff’s department has the tools available.”
Blasnek, who comes from the Walnut-Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Station, said his boss, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, “has been vocal” about some state propositions that grant early prison releases for certain nonviolent offenders, which could be contributing to the crime in the area. He frequently has talked with police chiefs in Arcadia and Sierra Madre about the burglary issues, in particular, he noted.
“Even the cities that have their own police department are facing the same things,” he said.
Blasnek, given his fresh eyes to this area, plans on evaluating ongoing law enforcement operations to identify potential improvements to protocol, and has pledged to make good on financial resources from LCF and manpower resources from LASD. He added he and his deputies will meet with any residents who have concerns about their community.
City staff will work out details on a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning codes regarding the installation of semicircular driveways.
Presently, the city follows county guidelines that allow such driveways to only be built on lots with a 100-foot frontage. There are many homes in LCF that have semicircular driveways with smaller frontages that were grandfathered into the zoning change.
This has restricted homeowners from maintaining or adding to those driveways because they are forced to follow current zoning code when making any changes involving that part of the property.
After some discussion, the City Council agreed on principle to an option that would add a city review process for lots between 100 and 75 feet whose owners want a new semicircular driveway, and a review process for lots between 75 and 65 feet whose owners want to improve existing semicircular driveways.
A more specific amendment will be researched, written up and presented to the city’s Planning Commission.
Resident James Shankwiler and his sons, Connor and Danny, were honored by the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, Los Angeles County Fire Department and City Council for helping to save a drowning neighbor in July 2016.
Blasnek said that on July 4, a neighbor on Harter Lane was swimming in his pool when he became incapacitated and sank to the bottom. The man’s son cried out for help, and James Shankwiler told Danny to call 911 while he and Connor pulled the man from the pool and performed CPR when the neighbor began turning blue.
By the time responders from the Sheriff’s station and fire department arrived, the man had regained consciousness and started breathing.
“This story is just amazing,” Blasnek said.
The three Shankwilers each received certificates from the agencies.