Last Wednesday, Joel Kelley lay asleep in his cozy, two-bedroom Eagle Rock home, blissfully unaware that he would be unable to go to work the following morning.
The worst windstorms in L.A.’s living memory were still about 20 hours away, so natural causes had nothing to do with what came between Kelley and his job as an electrical contractor. Rather, what prevented Kelley from going to work was an incident for which Eagle Rock is fast gaining notoriety: property crimes.
As Kelley slumbered in his house on the 4800 block of Floristan Avenue, a car drove up and parked alongside his pickup truck on the street outside. Several men got out and, with their car’s engine still running, approached the driver’s side of Kelley’s pickup.
Based on footage captured on a surveillance camera that Kelley has installed on his property (see accompanying video), the men took all of 55 seconds to get out of their car, open the three bins on the left side of the pickup, remove all the equipment and tools inside, put them into their waiting car and drive off brazenly into the night.
Aside from the video footage and the wide-open bins, with their flaps hanging down, there was no evidence of forced entry or robbery. The culprits appear to have used a master key to open the bins’ locks—so silently that not even the two precocious Boston terriers that live with Kelley in his house heard a thing.
Another Robbery The Previous Night
And get this: Just the previous night—on Tuesday, November 29—Brandon Ives, a plumber who’s Kelley’s next-door neighbor, suffered almost exactly the same fate: His plumbing tools, says Ives, were robbed from his pickup truck parked on the street in front of his house.
You’d think that after all this, the robbers would never be seen again in Eagle Rock, let alone on the same block of Floristan Avenue, between Colorado Boulevard and Yosemite Drive. But no, they were back again the following night—the night of the storm.
And not once—but twice.
Three Robberies in Three Nights
The first time around, they drove up outside the home of Stuart London, a general contractor who, like Kelley, parks one of his two pick-up trucks on the street. It was around midnight and the storm had yet to reach the peak of its fury in the early hours of Thursday. But some of the furniture in the backyard of London’s home had begun to blow around and the British-born contractor had woken up to secure it.
Well aware of what had happened to his neighbors during the previous two nights, London decided to take a quick look at his truck on the street. When he opened the door, London says he saw “palm fronds shooting out over” from the tall trees lining Fair Park Avenue, which crosses Floristan almost exactly in front of his house.
Same Car, Same Modus Operandi
To London’s utter shock and surprise, the same white-colored car whose image had been captured on Kelley’s surveillance camera was parked alongside his pickup. “I saw the driver and there was one guy who was out of the car,” recalls London, speaking in a Liverpool accent faintly reminiscent of the Beatles. “As soon as I opened my door I heard the door of the car slam and they took off.”
London got into his truck and chased the car, which, he believes, is a Ford Thunderbird. But the robbers had vanished.
They returned at around 3:30 a.m., according to the crime report that London filed at the LAPD Northeast Community Station, where detectives are investigating the incident but have no leads so far. And in what London believes was a repeat of what happened to Kelley, the robbers opened the three bins on the driver’s side of his pickup with a master key and made away with everything inside.
Goods Worth $1,000 Stolen
“There was no forced entry and they didn’t make a sound,” says London, adding that neither he, his fiancé nor their dog heard anything. London estimates around $1,000 worth of his construction tools were stolen.
“It’s a shame what’s going on,” says London, who has lived in Eagle Rock for the past six years and, despite being the victim of a property crime, loves the neighborhood.
“Normally, it’s not that big a deal if you lose a thousand dollars worth of something—you can throw it on a credit card and move on,” says London. “But there’s an unwritten rule in the construction industry that says you do not steal another man’s tools—they’re his livelihood, his bread and butter.”
Watching Out For Each Other
A Neighborhood Watch sign on the sidewalk directly in front of London’s house is a grim, if starkly ironic reminder that despite residents’ best efforts to protect themselves, property crimes are an almost inescapable reality in and around Eagle Rock. (In November alone, 28 property crimes—from burglaries to car thefts—were reported in Eagle Rock, according to Crimemapping.com, a website to which law enforcement agencies across the nation, including the LAPD, report crime statistics almost as soon as they are available.)
London and his neighbors are hardly resigned to their fates, however. They keep a close watch on each other’s properties and even share a sense of camaraderie that comes from having suffered similar fates.
“God forbid, if we catch these guys,” says London. “They won’t be picking up anything for a long time.”
Whether Eagle Rock will cease to be one of L.A.’s leading property crime capitals remains a bigger, arguably more worrisome question.