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Police suspect Chilean gang members are tied to string of home burglaries

Atherton homeowners share story after burglars cause $1M in damage

Atherton residents Dean and Clary lost more than valuables when their home was burglarized — flooding from a broken faucet caused about $1 million in damage to the house. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In the town of Atherton last year, 28 families' homes were burglarized, and police are suspecting the culprits could be Chilean gang members operating out of southern California.

One family lost $20,000 in property, mostly jewels, in November, but even worse, the burglars caused $1 million in damage to their home after breaking off a bathtub faucet handle and causing a flood.

Now those homeowners, Clary and Dean, have shared their story with The Almanac, a sister publication of the Weekly. Their last names are being withheld due to their safety concerns.

The couple was on vacation when burglars entered their home and apparently broke off the faucet handle to use as a tool to try to open the safe. When the home began to flood from water leaking from the faucet, a fire alarm sounded and the thieves fled.

The result? Mold, a home gutted after 16 hours of flooding caused about $1 million in structural damage, and the loss of $20,000 in property.

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It was an alert neighbor who spotted a stream of water running down Dean and Clary's driveway after the break-in and alerted both them and the police.

A police officer used FaceTime to show the couple the extent of the damage. Most items in the house were ruined, including Dean's two handmade guitars.

At the time of the burglary, half the alarm system was activated since the couple had someone coming daily to check on the home. But the alarm that would directly alert the police of a break-in was turned off.

Home security cameras captured images of two women and a man breaking into the home through a window at the back of the house.

Police believe that home burglaries over the last year in Atherton — as well as the theft of $800,000 worth of jewelry reported stolen from a home on Dec. 8, 2020 — are linked to a crime spree in town in 2018 by members of a Chilean gang.

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Police are analyzing items found through a search warrant.

"I would say it appears this burglary is connected with the rest of the burglaries we have had, but I cannot say anything definitive until the search warrant returns are received and looked through," Atherton police Sgt. Anthony Kockler said in an email.

An outpouring of support

Dean and Clary, center, spend time with their daughter and grandchildren on Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

While the burglary has shaken the couple, the response from their community has also given them a measure of resolve — and deep gratitude.

Clary said they are more aware of their surroundings and are more prone to notice unusual cars and people in their neighborhood.

"We check our doors repeatedly now and check strange sounds in the night," she said. "Sleeping ... is with one eye open."

The pair now plan not to leave their home without activating their security system, even for a few minutes. They also added sensors to glass windows and doors.

From neighbors calling them and police as soon as the flooding began to family members temporarily housing them, Clary and Dean said they were touched by the people who supported them in the aftermath of the burglary.

Menlo Park Fire Protection District fire fighters help remove a piano from an Atherton home that flooded when burglars removed a handle from a bathroom faucet. Courtesy Clary.

Family and friends helped the two, who flew back from their trip early, to move personal items, even heavy furniture and damaged rugs.

"It changed our hearts and attitudes to a spirit of fight and resolve; we were on a mission to recover," Clary said. "I still get a little choked up. It's really the kindness that does it to us; it's not feeling violated."

'We check our doors repeatedly now, and check strange sounds in the night. Sleeping is with one eye open.'

-Clary, Atherton homeowner who was burglarized

The couple has appreciated the work of the police to identify the culprits.

"Though we were devastated, it was comforting to know they were going to do what they could to catch the criminals," she said of the police.

"The response reminded us that the spirit of our community will never be overcome by the darkness of criminal activity," Clary said. "We will have a heightened awareness for our safety. ... The police would like us all to know they're working to catch this ring of criminals; it can help by reporting all suspicious people."

Police plan to host a community meeting with residents about the burglaries on Feb. 16.

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Angela Swartz writes for The Almanac, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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Police suspect Chilean gang members are tied to string of home burglaries

Atherton homeowners share story after burglars cause $1M in damage

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Jan 28, 2022, 6:54 am

In the town of Atherton last year, 28 families' homes were burglarized, and police are suspecting the culprits could be Chilean gang members operating out of southern California.

One family lost $20,000 in property, mostly jewels, in November, but even worse, the burglars caused $1 million in damage to their home after breaking off a bathtub faucet handle and causing a flood.

Now those homeowners, Clary and Dean, have shared their story with The Almanac, a sister publication of the Weekly. Their last names are being withheld due to their safety concerns.

The couple was on vacation when burglars entered their home and apparently broke off the faucet handle to use as a tool to try to open the safe. When the home began to flood from water leaking from the faucet, a fire alarm sounded and the thieves fled.

The result? Mold, a home gutted after 16 hours of flooding caused about $1 million in structural damage, and the loss of $20,000 in property.

It was an alert neighbor who spotted a stream of water running down Dean and Clary's driveway after the break-in and alerted both them and the police.

A police officer used FaceTime to show the couple the extent of the damage. Most items in the house were ruined, including Dean's two handmade guitars.

At the time of the burglary, half the alarm system was activated since the couple had someone coming daily to check on the home. But the alarm that would directly alert the police of a break-in was turned off.

Home security cameras captured images of two women and a man breaking into the home through a window at the back of the house.

Police believe that home burglaries over the last year in Atherton — as well as the theft of $800,000 worth of jewelry reported stolen from a home on Dec. 8, 2020 — are linked to a crime spree in town in 2018 by members of a Chilean gang.

Police are analyzing items found through a search warrant.

"I would say it appears this burglary is connected with the rest of the burglaries we have had, but I cannot say anything definitive until the search warrant returns are received and looked through," Atherton police Sgt. Anthony Kockler said in an email.

While the burglary has shaken the couple, the response from their community has also given them a measure of resolve — and deep gratitude.

Clary said they are more aware of their surroundings and are more prone to notice unusual cars and people in their neighborhood.

"We check our doors repeatedly now and check strange sounds in the night," she said. "Sleeping ... is with one eye open."

The pair now plan not to leave their home without activating their security system, even for a few minutes. They also added sensors to glass windows and doors.

From neighbors calling them and police as soon as the flooding began to family members temporarily housing them, Clary and Dean said they were touched by the people who supported them in the aftermath of the burglary.

Family and friends helped the two, who flew back from their trip early, to move personal items, even heavy furniture and damaged rugs.

"It changed our hearts and attitudes to a spirit of fight and resolve; we were on a mission to recover," Clary said. "I still get a little choked up. It's really the kindness that does it to us; it's not feeling violated."

The couple has appreciated the work of the police to identify the culprits.

"Though we were devastated, it was comforting to know they were going to do what they could to catch the criminals," she said of the police.

"The response reminded us that the spirit of our community will never be overcome by the darkness of criminal activity," Clary said. "We will have a heightened awareness for our safety. ... The police would like us all to know they're working to catch this ring of criminals; it can help by reporting all suspicious people."

Police plan to host a community meeting with residents about the burglaries on Feb. 16.

Angela Swartz writes for The Almanac, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2022 at 11:16 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 11:16 am

Chilean gangs? Southern California?

Is this to try and spread the blame away from Bay Area locations? Are we no longer blaming home grown criminal gangs?

Crime appears to be at very high levels all over the Bay Area. From car thefts and breakins for valuables as well as parts, to break in smash and grabs at drugstores and high end stores as well as delivery porch pirates, it is obvious that everyone and everywhere is being targeted. Trying to explain it away by Chilean gangs from SoCal doesn't make it any less worrying.


Optimist Pessimist Realist
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2022 at 11:32 am
Optimist Pessimist Realist , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 11:32 am

Bystander, just Google Southern California Chilean Gang Burglaries and you’ll see lots of news stories. It makes sense they’d move up the coast and target other wealthy areas.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Jan 29, 2022 at 4:36 am
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Jan 29, 2022 at 4:36 am

This story also indirectly reinforces the benefit of having a modern leak/flooding detection system in place.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Jan 29, 2022 at 8:01 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Jan 29, 2022 at 8:01 am

A burglar could be anyone. Chilean gang members are burglarizing in Southern CA, Canada, UK and Australia. They're here on visas. They're wreaking havoc, and I understand why LE might suspect them. Atherton is the wealthiest zip code in America., and the internet is a little too easy when it comes to sharing information.


Anne
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 1, 2022 at 12:27 pm
Anne, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 1, 2022 at 12:27 pm

South American burglars are a thing.

Wapo had a good story on it:

Web Link


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