Surveillance footage of a car with unique details from a May 3 break-in at a Virginia Road home helped to produce the crime bulletin that resulted in the June 7 arrest of a man allegedly in possession of stolen property, drugs and other criminal items.
Even though detectives have, as of Monday, yet to directly link Thomas Dandurand, a 37-year-old Riverside man, to the Virginia Road burglary, Cmdr. Aaron Blondé said the footage was “instrumental” apprehending this suspect, whether he is the perpetrator or not.
Ancillary evidence in investigations, when combined with good police work, oftentimes is the reason arrests can be made. In recent months, SMPD officers and detectives have made a multitude of arrests thanks to help from watchful residents and their effective use of technology, and the arrest of Dandurand highlights this synergy.
“There was good information that we got and compiled,” Blondé said in an interview Monday. “We got a good description put together by our detectives and there was good work by patrol officers in observing and recognizing this vehicle.”
Dandurand, who was driving a black 2002 GMC Yukon XL SUV with black rims and each of its windows tinted, was pulled over at 1:14 a.m. Wednesday, June 7, near the intersection of San Marino Avenue and Lorain Road because the vehicle lacked a front license plate — something required of vehicles registered in the state.
An initial search of the vehicle yielded a set of burglary tools, resulting in the Dandurand’s arrest, but the more thorough inspection afterward yielded a multitude of items — laptop computers, electronic tablets and jewelry included — that had been stolen from homes and a thrift store in Long Beach, and also a handgun, ballistic vest, gun belt, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
Detective Patrice Garcia, who is handling this investigation, said those patrol officers were responding to a BOLO (be on lookout alert) for a black second-generation GMC Yukon XL, with black rims, tinted windows and a missing front license plate. One of the suspects in that break-in had been wearing a ballistic vest and a gun belt and was holding a handgun.
The hold-up on whether Dandurand may be connected to the Virginia Road break-in is that nothing was stolen from the home (so there aren’t missing items to connect him), the coinciding lack of a front license plate also means there aren’t plates to compare and the suspect at Virginia Road was covering his face.
“And he isn’t talking,” Garcia said in a phone interview.
Burglars, who have targeted San Marino and other nearby affluent communities in particular, often operate in groups and will target areas at a time, which means this suspect could very well have been involved in other local burglaries, police say.
“It’s a great possibility, but the investigation is ongoing,” Garcia said.
Dandurand was on Friday, June 9, formally charged with carrying a loaded firearm with prior conviction, possession of a firearm by a felon with two prior convictions, receiving a high-capacity magazine and receiving stolen property in excess of $950. Garcia said he was convicted in a Covina burglary in 2011 and served a five-year sentence.
An arrest on Sunday, June 11, also occurred as a result of help from a local resident. Three juvenile boys — ages 14, 15 and 16 — were arrested on suspicion of a burglary in the 1800 block of Alpine Drive.
A neighbor called SMPD at 12:27 p.m. that day to report seeing an unfamiliar vehicle parked in the street and two of the boys entering the neighboring home’s backyard. Officers with SMPD were on-scene in three minutes, and others from San Gabriel Police Department, South Pasadena Police Department and Alhambra Police Department soon arrived to help set up a containment.
One of the boys was arrested while sitting in the suspicious vehicle (which was reported stolen in Los Angeles the previous day) and the two others tried fleeing but were quickly apprehended in neighboring yards. Those two had just forced open a side window at the home when officers arrived, according to SMPD.
All three boys were charged with burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle. The two who fled were additionally charged with resisting or delaying an officer and one of the boys was charged with possession of burglary tools.
Vigilant residents and their cameras have contributed to most of the burglary-related arrests this year, two of which involved a group of people allegedly squatting in unoccupied homes. (Blondé noted that three suspects arrested in an Oak Knoll Avenue burglary last month who were squatting with four young children were from Long Beach and apparently know Dandurand.)
“People are stepping up to get the cameras,” he said, specifically noting the cameras triggered by doorbell rings. “It’s definitely making a difference, but nothing beats the old fashioned ‘neighborhood watch’ type of neighbor.”
SMPD has done its part to reach out to the community — such as with a public meeting at Crowell Public Library last week — and adjust its operations in an attempt to combat the generally rising burglary trend. Year-to-date, burglaries are up 36% so far this year and tend to occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., typical work hours. A compilation of burglary locations since 2015 (provided by SMPD) indicates the perpetrators are neither targeting nor avoiding any part of town.
“They know it’s a wealthy community, and that makes it a target,” Blondé said. “In wealthy areas, you’ll tend to see fewer crimes against persons and more property crimes.”
At public meetings and in prior interviews, Police Chief John Incontro has emphatically stressed for residents to call the police department if something seems suspicious, even if it turns out the unknown person walking yard-to-yard is a meter reader or utility worker.
“Our calls, just from listening to the [police] radio, have gone up dramatically,” Blondé said.
Homeowners are urged to, among other things, keep homes and vehicles secured even if gone for a short time, have packages delivered not to front doors, have neighbors watch homes while away and generally try to make it seem as though someone is home at all times — leaving a car in the driveway, maintaining yards and the outsides of homes, leaving lights on, etc.
And, as always, say something if you see something.
Recommendations to Protect Your Home
- Keep front and back doors locked at all times and make sure gates are closed.
- Turn alarm system on when home and when leaving home.
- Install a back-up battery for your alarm system.
- Do not leave packages or mail at the front door.
- Make it look like there is someone home by leaving cars in the driveway, turning on lights or playing music.
- Have mail delivered to a mailbox store, permanently or when traveling.
- Alternatively forward mail to a friend while traveling.
- Buy a bat and keep it near you.
- If traveling, have a neighbor park a car in your driveway.
- Clean cobwebs near doorways.
- If away from home, avoid posting your location on social media until returning home.
- Keep valuables in a locked safe that is bolted to the ground.
- When traveling, have a neighbor check on your property every day or get a house sitter.
- Install cameras on the property. Footage from cameras can be helpful when investigating a burglary in your house or neighborhood.
- Ask police to check your house (there is a $5 fee per check with this request).
- Be vigilant about things that seem out of the ordinary and call the police with any leads, concerns or issues.