For months, a one-man crime spree has been tormenting the people of Silver Lake and Echo Park. Although the suspect has been caught on home security videos again and again, prowling around property and casing houses, stealing packages from mail boxes, and even making off with a car, the police have been stymied in their attempts to capture the relentless menace. It’s gotten so bad that one longtime resident tells Los Angeles that she’s thinking of buying a gun.
The man—who appears to be white or hispanic with short-cropped black hair and in his twenties, of medium height and build, with a gut—does nothing to conceal his face in roughly a dozen videos seen by Los Angeles.
In one clip, the prowler walks right into someone’s open garage and pulls down his black surgical mask to smoke a cigarette as he rifles through the resident’s mail, tears open a package, steals the contents, and drives away in his white car.
Los Angeles is not sharing any footage because it comes from Ring videos and other home surveillance apps, shot from the houses and property of victims and potential victims. But residents say they have forwarded videos to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Lisa, a longtime area homeowner who’s caught the suspect on video several times spoke to Los Angeles but wishes to be identified only by her first name, for fear of reaping the prowler’s vengeance.
“The dude is a straight-up crook,” she says. “Stealing from hard working, innocent people is about as low as you can stoop. Hope someone steals from his mother.”
Earlier this week, another local, Samantha, told KTLA that the man is predictable, usually striking between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Fridays. But that hasn’t helped LAPD track him down, nor did it prevent him from stealing Samantha’s car.
“That’s kind of what seems to be the pattern, stealing cars, breaking into cars, stealing people’s personal property,” Samantha told the station. “I had him on camera using a key-fob replicator to unlock my door, and then he just gets in and takes the car.”
Lisa says she’s taken what steps she can to protect her car and home: “I’ve seen him on my ring camera on more than one occasion in multiple cars trying to get into my car. I have cameras everywhere, a massive steel gate, and keep my car key in a Faraday bag at all times.”
As the serial criminal grows more fearless, she’s also taken extra precautions.
“I also keep a pipe filled with cement and a machete near my front and back doors,” Lisa says.
From a law enforcement perspective, however, forces beyond police control have stymied their ability to catch habitual offenders like the prowler.
There are offenders at every level suffering from mental illness, but California’s mental health system is broken, with few facilities to house or care for even a fraction of the people who need it. On top of that, a year ago more than 76,000 state prisoners were given a chance at early release, with little or no thought as to where they might live or work. And though cops will tell you that most of the crimes they deal with are the result of drug addiction, zero-dollar bail seems to have done little to set criminal addicts on a different path.
Meanwhile, although Lisa says she has been considering buying a gun—which is an increasingly popular purchase in L.A.—she adds, “I’m a liberal New York Jew. It’s hard to suddenly become a Texan, but clearly this is the wild Wild West.”
The reign of fear may soon come to an end, however. Detective Michael Ventura of LAPD’s Northeast Division tells Los Angeles that they’ve identified a suspect, although there’s still more work to do before the man can be brought up on charges.
“LAPD has received information from a community source, which was forwarded to KTLA,” Det. Ventura says. “We had the opportunity to look at the video and what we have is an unidentified person who is trespassing in an underground garage. We don’t actually see him breaking into cars, so it’s subjective as to whether a crime did or did not occur, and then we can see him on the video taking packages. The difficulty is, what are the addresses for those locations?”
According to Det. Ventura LAPD Northeast and the LAPD Rampart Station “are combing through all of their garage burglaries and all of their package thefts to see which ones they can attribute to our particular suspect.”
Additionally, LAPD has gotten some pretty large clues, including a vehicle the suspect was seen driving
“We did work on that vehicle,” Ventura says. “It’s going to be a fresh LAPD stolen vehicle taken from the Van Nuys area.”
The police also have the man’s face: “We have since been able to use facial recognition, that person has been identified. What we are doing now is trying to see what we can link in terms of that person and the crimes in the LAPD Northeast or Rampart areas.”
Lisa, meanwhile, tells us that even in the face of the one-man gang, “The mood in the neighborhood is cheerful despite it all. Silver Lake is a community. We come together.”
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