Increase in home break-ins in Merced

MERCED, Calif.

Christina Macha frequently uses Facebook to promote her clothing stores, including one in Merced. But now she's using the social media site to help keep her neighbors safe.

Macha said, "The last few weeks I've noticed so many people posting about everything from car break-ins to even someone being robbed at gunpoint, and I just felt it was important to get the word out."

Macha recently shared a post about a couple in an older model Honda breaking into houses in North Merced during the daytime. Her customers quickly shared the story more than 100 times, and many commented about similar cases. Richard Peraino, who owns the jewelry and gift store next door, says he's also seen a spike in people coming in to look for items stolen from their homes.

Richard Peraino said, "It's pretty sad, especially you feel so violated when they take your mother's ring or your aunt's ring and things like that."

Merced police confirm burglaries are on the rise. They've had 858 cases through November of this year, compared to 730 during the same period last year. That's an 18 percent increase. And the department's crime mapping website shows 22 burglaries this week alone, including eight north of Bear Creek.

Lt. Tom Trindad said, "It's happening, it's significant in all areas of the city, but yes, our north end seems to be hitting a lot harder than some of the other areas."

Lieutenant Tom Trindad says detectives have been patrolling the targeted neighborhoods in unmarked cars, and they have made some arrests in the burglary cases. He does not want to elaborate on any suspects because of the ongoing investigation, but says the method of operation is often similar.

Lt. Trindad explained, "A ploy of a lot of them is they knock on the door, no one answers, they know the home is empty then they go to the rear of the residence and force entry."

Police say residents should lock all doors and windows, have plenty of lighting outside at night, and trim bushes to minimize hiding spots. He's also asking neighbors to keep looking out for one another and to contact police if they see anything suspicious.

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