Play It Safe

By J'Amy Brown   |   July 18, 2019

Q: Are burglaries in Montecito on the rise?

Actually, break-ins are down since last year – but not gone – and it seems we citizens are leaving ourselves “wide open” by not locking our doors! According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Lt. Butch Arnoldi, assigned to the Montecito area, 30 of the 72 housebreaks in 2018 allowed for “easy entry” through unsecured doors!

For 2019, Montecito’s burglary stats are lower than last year, but this spring, numbers indicated an uptick. Arnoldi put out the word for better citizen defense and the just-reported June count is way down. So far in 2019 there have been 19 reported residential burglaries in Montecito – three in January, two in February, three in March, five in April, five in May, and one in June. But chain this to your brain – in six of the 19 illegally entered homes, the crooks entered through unlocked doors! 

July, so far, seems to be drawing prowlers. On July 8, a pre-dawn “hot prowl” was reported in the 900 block of Hot Springs Road. A hot prowl is when someone intrudes into an occupied house. Fortunately, in this case, the family heard the prowler, who apparently entered through an unsecured door. Once confronted by members of the family, the hooded crook ran off. The case remains under investigation. Arnoldi said there was another hooded prowler reported on a different date on nearby Olive Mill Road – so be on the lookout for dark-to-dawn, hooded, creepy night crawlers.

Q: How can citizens do a better job of safeguarding ourselves?

LOCK ‘ER UP: Given the statistics, a pretty-obvious start to local crime prevention might for all of us to lock our doors! Arnoldi says even if you are leaving the house for a few minutes to garden, to pick up carpool or to run a quick errand – lock up! A professional robber can gain entry, grab your valuables and be gone in five minutes. At least citizens can decelerate the crooks by putting a locked door between us and them. 

THEY’RE WATCHING: Lt. Arnoldi also said some bad guys are using service vans to case neighborhoods. Looking like normal work vehicles, these lookouts park on local lanes, generally going unnoticed. In fact, they are observing you. Arnoldi said sometimes they surveil neighborhoods for days, learning the patterns of a full neighborhood. 

Armed with knowledge of your routine and your comings and goings, they pounce when they are confident the house is unoccupied. Arnoldi said burglars can be in and out of your house in minutes – departing with your lifetime of treasures. He urged if citizens see an unknown car parked on their street, they should check with neighbors and if no one identifies the work vehicle – alert the Sheriff. Arnoldi said the Sheriff does not mind checking out any suspicious vehicles. You can call 911 if you feel threatened or if you just want a deputy to cruise by, call dispatch at 805-683-2724. 

SECOND STORY SAFETY: Lock your second story windows/doors and get them armed if you have an alarm. Arnoldi says intruders are known to carry ladders with them because they know second story windows are often unlocked and vulnerable.

ELECTRONIC ENTRANCE: Arnoldi advises to lock the door that goes between your garage into your house. Intruders are able to use universally coded garage door openers, allowing them to get into your garage with press-button ease. If the connecting door between your house and your garage is unlocked, access becomes an “open-door” policy!

ARM THE ALARM: If you have an alarm system – use it. Arnoldi says many homes with alarms still get break-ins – often because the resident failed to arm the alarm. 

CRIME STOPPERS: Other Neighborhood Watch theft prevention tips include making the home look occupied, especially if you are on vacation. If leaving town, tell a neighbor, keep lights on inside, perhaps on a timer, and be certain mail, packages, and papers do not pile up. Install motion-activated sensor lights around your house – many good ones are now battery operated and easy to install. Gravel on driveways and paths surrounding a home creates a noise factor that can be a deterrent to prowlers and keep bushes and plants trimmed away from your house – so hiding areas are eliminated. 

WE’RE WATCHING: If more hands make a job easier, more eyes make a neighborhood safer. Start a Neighborhood Watch – it is easy and effective. Community Resource Deputy Sherriff James Carovano will come and speak to your neighborhood group about organizing a Neighborhood Watch. He can be reached in Carpinteria via Sheriff Dispatch at 805-683-2724. To get started, Carovano recommends looking at the National Sheriff’s Association website ( for helpful Neighborhood Watch tips. 

“BOTTOM” LINE: As to alarms, several readers asked if Ring Doorbell security works. They can be effective. The Sheriff’s Department recently reported a doorbell camera in Orcutt caught an intruder at a resident’s front door. The owner alerted the Sheriff and the suspect was quickly apprehended. Arnoldi notes, however, burglars normally do not go through the front door – but often they depart that way. What an insult-to-injury that would be – a looted house with nothing left to show for it other than a photo of the badass’s ass! 

Q: I have seen several telephone numbers for the Carpinteria Sheriff’s station, serving Montecito. What is the best number to reach the Sheriff?

Sergeant Daniel Calderon recently sent a reminder about the most effective ways to contact a deputy for service. He said for all emergency calls you should still dial 911. Be prepared to confirm your location and the nature of your emergency with the call taker.

All Non-Emergency requests and general inquiries should be made by calling the non-emergency 24/7 Dispatch number: (805) 683-2724. Dispatch will contact the local station, as appropriate, and you will receive a call back from a deputy. This central dispatch system should help to get the right question to the right person in an expedient, efficient manner.

You can also seek information on the Sheriff’s website ( This newly enhanced online reporting system is proving effective for ordinary reports like filing for insurance requirements. Online reports are checked approximately every three hours and then routed to the appropriate Sheriff staff for response – but remember, in an emergency, just dial 911.


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