For several years, we’ve been hearing warnings about the possibility of burglaries during whole-house tentings for termite fumigation. While many people might not think it’s too likely that a burglar would enter a home filled with poison gas, it does happen…as one Miracle Mile family discovered last week.
Kari Garcia, who lives in the 1000 block of S. Dunsmuir, said she is very security conscious and “high-tech” – her family has an ADT alarm system with cameras and an online notification system, as well as a Ring doorbell, which alerts them to people at the front door. Still, being even more cautious as the family was preparing for a house tenting last week, she was also careful to remove her jewelry, cash and other valuables. But it turned out not to be enough. Around 11:45 p.m. on June 23, the second day the tent was on her house, Garcia’s Ring doorbell alerted her to a man at the front door.
“I reviewed the film and saw a man enter the gate under the tent,” Garcia posted to her local NextDoor.com neighborhood group few days later. “I then logged into my ADT alarm app and saw the man exit LIVE as I remotely watched my front door camera.”
Garcia, who was staying just two doors down with her in-laws, said she called the police immediately, and while officers responded quickly and came to take a report, they couldn’t enter the house because of the toxic gas.
All of this would be disturbing enough, but at 5:30 the next morning, Garcia checked her phone again and saw another alert from the Ring doorbell app. The burglars (two this time), had apparently re-entered the home around 4:15 a.m., stayed another half hour inside, and left with a number of items she had neglected to removed from her college-aged children’s rooms, including electronics, jewelry, and pennies and dimes from a change jar. Also, said Garcia, “They had plenty of time and totally ransacked our closets.”
Speaking to the Buzz this morning, Garcia explained that many people assume burglars will be deterred by the presence of poison gas and the large “Danger” signs posted by fumigators. But the reality is that you do need to leave all your windows open under the fumigation tent, and it’s often just too tempting a target for those who commit crimes of opportunity. She said she has also learned that burglars know that the gas levels diminish by the second or third day of a tenting, so they often come prepared with gas masks, which allow them to enter safely at that time. (The men who broke into Garcia’s house did not use masks, which she finds surprising, especially since they stayed so long – up to half an hour in each of the two entries, as documented by her security cameras. Also, these particular burglars did not seem deterred by the cameras either. Garcia said camera footage shows one of them notice the camera’s red light, acknowledge out loud that it is recording him, and then go on about his business.)
But Garcia says that even though her house generally has good security, “I still made mistakes,” and there is more that people can do to protect their properties…and more she could have done.
First, she said, she could have activated her security alarm before leaving the house, deliberately turning off the window contacts (since the windows had to be left open), but leaving the interior motion detectors on. Second, said Garcia, she could have hired a security guard to watch the property during the time it was off limits to her and her family. And, third, she could have installed flood lights that would have lit up the house and yard while the family was away, to help deter intruders who depend on darkness for cover.
In summary, Garcia says, “This crime is occurring more often than you realize. The criminals risk their lives – day one of fumigation is deadly and day two can be less deadly but is still a risk. They don’t care and they break in to your vulnerable property. We are lucky we did not lose more as I knew of this possibility and removed most of our valuables.”
Also, she noted, “Fumigation companies are not responsible for any loss you incur. Don’t be a victim. Hire a company and rent flood lights to light up your home if you need to fumigate. It’s such a violation. I was two homes away and totally helpless and I remotely watched them leave my home with my daughter, son and husband’s personal belongings in a pillow case and backpack they also stole.”
Garcia saysd LAPD detectives are now working on the case (though they couldn’t take fingerprints since the suspects wore gloves, and the scene was disturbed by the fumigation crew when they removed the tent). The suspect photographed by her Ring doorbell camera is male, tall and slender, wearing a hoodie sweatshirt (which obscures his hair) and sweatpants. The second suspect was wearing shorts. It’s also fairly likely that the burglars would have suffered at least some effects from the toxic gas exposure. If you have any information about the break-in or suspects, please contact LAPD.