Jovita Mendoza of Madera came home Sunday night to see her front porch light taken apart and her windows and front door open. "They left it open and I was like, 'Oh my God, they did it again.'"
Thieves first broke into Mendoza's home on Halloween, leaving with jewelry. This time, they took all of the family's electronics including a computer, a PlayStation and a 42 inch plasma TV. She said those things can be replaced. "They went through my stuff. And it's something... I feel kind of violated," said Mendoza.
Mendoza is just one of the victims. Nearly 700 home, business, and vehicle burglaries have been reported in the county this year. That's nearly a 30 percent increase county-wide, including the foothill area. On the valley floor, people are dealing with a nearly 50 percent increase. "Even though the economy has been bad for three or four years, this is the first noticeable increase in burglaries and thefts was this year," said Madera County Sheriff John Anderson.
Anderson said his department has made some major arrests related to burglaries and many of the suspects are also tied to drugs. As deputies try to tackle both issues, they're reminding the public to keep their doors and windows locked.
Mendoza said her three children now ask her daily if the thieves are going to come back. Though she tries to reassure them everything is okay, she also worries. "It's just a feeling that I didn't have before. Every time I go out to the store or something I'm still thinking of my house... that when I get back something's going to happen or someone's going be in here," said Mendoza.
Mendoza is now considering purchasing an alarm system, trying to regain that sense of security that thieves also stole.
The Madera County Sheriff's Department said in some cases, thieves have entered homes and vehicles because they're unlocked. They're reminding residents they, too, have a role in protecting their homes.