By Edwin Folven, 2/28/2013
Charges were filed on Feb. 22 against two alleged gang members who may be responsible for a series of home burglaries in the Wilshire area.
James Meza, 23, and Jose Franco Velasco, 22, both of West Los Angeles, are facing felony charges after they were pulled over by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Newton Division on Jan. 31 and were found to be in possession of stolen property. Meza had been arrested the day before for an attempted burglary in the 1400 block of S. Hayworth Avenue, but was released on bail.
Officer Brent Hopkins, with the LAPD Wilshire Division’s Burglary Unit, said he believes the two suspects are part of a burglary crew that has targeted residences throughout the Wilshire and West Los Angeles areas, as well as Santa Monica. Meza has been charged with burglary, attempted burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of methamphetamine. Velasco has been charged with receiving stolen property. Investigators are trying to determine whether any other recent break-ins can be linked to the suspects.
Hopkins said the suspects were involved in “knock, knock” burglaries, where they knock on doors to see if anyone is home, and then enter the residence when it is determined to be unoccupied. On Jan. 20 at approximately 10:45 p.m., Meza allegedly first knocked on the door and then attempted to enter through a window.
“The victims, who were home and were awakened by him, caught him trying to enter through the window. The homeowner called 911, and police saw him a block away on Fairfax Avenue and took him into custody,” Hopkins said. “Officers realized a car belonging to the suspect was parked directly in front of the house where the attempted burglary had occurred, and saw his teenage accomplice cowering in the back seat. Meza was arrested and booked, and the juvenile was turned over to his parents. We are working with the authorities who handle juvenile prosecutions to see if there will be charges against him.”
Hopkins said on Jan. 31, Meza and Velasco were driving near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Broadway Place when they were pulled over by Newton Division officers.
“The car they were in was crammed with stolen property,” Hopkins said. “It was in the trunk, the passenger seat, the center console, everywhere. There were dozens of items. It looked like a moving van.”
The stolen property linked the men to a burglary in Santa Monica, and potentially others in West Los Angeles. The investigators said the property includes small electronics such as iPhones and iPads. There were hundreds of comic books, as well as sports memorabilia and jewelry.
“We still have a lot of property we are trying to link with the owners,” he added. Hopkins said there has been uptick in burglaries in the Wilshire area and Hancock Park, and police also arrested three additional suspects on Feb. 8 near the corner of 3rd Street and Muirfield Road for alleged “knock, knock” burglaries. A resident saw the suspects burglarizing a residence near 3rd Street and Rimpau Boulevard and called his security company. The security officers located four suspects leaving a nearby house carrying property and attempted to detain the suspects, who fled on foot and in an SUV. LAPD officers located three of the four individuals a short distance away and took them into custody. They were identified as Maurice Bull, Andre Moton and Jamell Ford, all 20 years old. Bull and Moton were charged with burglary, and charges are pending against Ford, who Hopkins said was the getaway driver. Authorities are still searching for the fourth suspect, who was described as an African American man in his 20s.
Hopkins cautioned residents to keep their doors and windows locked, and to keep their residences well lit at night. He also advised residents to not open their doors to strangers, and to contact police immediately if they observe anything suspicious.
“Watch out for your neighbors’ houses. That seems to help a lot,” he added. “The residents are our partners. They see more, and they know more. By being alert and concerned for your neighbors, it will make it a lot harder for people to commit these burglaries.”
Anyone who has been the victim of a recent burglary in the Wilshire area is encouraged to contact investigators to determine if the property recovered from Meza and Velasco belongs to them. Wilshire Division burglary detectives can be reached at (213)922-8252.