By Catherine Lomond and Liam McGlynn, Staff Writers
// Lafayette maintains the reputation of a safe, family-friendly city. Families from all over the state and nation move to Lafayette to live the idyllic suburban life with great neighborhoods and schools.
Unfortunately, with few sporadic crimes and home invasions in the past month, some Lafayette residents feel unsafe or paranoid in their own homes and community. The number of home invasions in Lamorinda increased during Oct. 2019 through Dec. 2019 compared to previous years.
A home invasion occurred close to Springhill Elementary on Martino Road on the night of Halloween. Described as robbery and assault, three-armed male suspects entered through the garage and proceeded to inflict minor injuries on the victims.
In addition to the Martino home invasion, another similar home invasion occurred only months later.
Around 7:30 pm, on Nov. 23, three individuals entered a home in Happy Valley on Crestmont Drive. Entering the building through an open garage door, the individuals then raided the home. After finding the victims in bed, the suspects forced the homeowners out of bed tied them up in their own house. Once the suspects left the house with some of the homeowners’ valuables, the homeowners spent nearly three hours attempting to loosen their restraints before contacting the police.
Although Lafayette rarely has such violent crimes, Lafayette’s Vice Mayor Susan Candell remains confident that the Lafayette Police would catch the suspects after the committed crimes had taken place.
After months of investigating and collaboration with other police departments, on Dec. 5, the Lafayette Police Department announced the arrest of two individuals relating to home invasions in Lafayette, Benicia, and Oakland. Charged with burglary, kidnapping, kidnapping for ransom, false imprisonment, robbery, vehicle theft, and conspiracy, 20-year-old Adama Diop and 22-year-old Joseph Wells were taken into custody by the Fairfield Police Department Special Weapons And Tactics Team and the Lafayette Police department.
The next day, the Lafayette Police Department announced the arrests of an additional two suspects with less severe charges.
“I was 100 percent confident that our police department would solve these crimes — 100 percent. Our success rate in the past is indisputable, and we are at an 85 or 90 percent solve rate, and it’s because of all the cameras and surveillance and the diligence of our police department,” Candell said.
Candell trusts the police’s high solve rates, as well as developments in technology that help home security, like cameras and surveillance systems such as Ring and Nest, which is the Council’s best advice to stay safe and prevent a home invasion.
“Some people talked of buying bulk cameras, so the city would buy a ton on discount, and then people would buy them off of us,” Candell said, “We would also offer help from workers to get them installed in the homes.”
Lafayette citizens also take preventative measures of their own to reduce the chance of crime and home invasions in their homes.
“My family increased our security with a better alert system, and we always make sure to lock all doors and windows,” sophomore Tyler Holder, whose family were the victims of a previous home invasion, said.
In Orinda, the guest of a rented Airbnb house threw a party on Oct. 31, the same night as the home invasion on Martino Road. Within the short-term rented house, at least three gunmen shot ten people and killed five. However, due to the Oct. 31 home invasion, first responders were delayed when reporting to the scene.
Candell believes that many home invasions and general crime in Lamorinda, as well as the nation, can be reduced by better gun control laws.
“Our current gun laws are insufficient, and that’s a tragedy, and I’m glad that the kids’ groups are getting so much traction to enact more change,” Candell said, “More handguns just lead to more violence, and less handguns would be less dangerous.”
With these two violent home invasions occurring within several months of one another, many Lamorinda residents assumed that the trend of crime is increasing. However, according to Lafayette Chief of Police Ben Alldritt, 2019’s fourth-quarter statistics show that crime in Lafayette remains on a downward trend.
“Overall, violent crimes in our community in 2019 was very low. Unfortunately, we had two home invasions which on the spectrum of violent crimes are some of the worst ones out there,” Alldritt said.
Although crime remains a constant reminder of just how dangerous the world can be, Alldritt reassures that careful planning will help prevent crime.
“We live in a world where evil does exist, but we don’t have to live in fear of that. We just have to acknowledge it and make smart decisions and do the best you can to have an alarm system have a security camera,” Alldritt said.