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Growing peril of daylight burglaries in Korean homes

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Good morning! It’s Monday, September 18. In the heart of LA’s Koreatown, a palpable tide of fear and indignation is rising. With each new day, an alarming pattern becomes clear: daylight burglaries targeting Korean-American homes. Safety within one’s home should not be a privilege; it should be a fundamental right. The time has come to demand accountability and ensure that the families of Koreatown can once again find peace and security within their walls. 
Welcome to Katchup Briefing, the Korea Daily’s weekly English newsletter, where I’ll keep you informed with the latest news updates and perspectives from the Korean American community. If you want to explore more articles and columns from previous weeks, please visit koreadailyus.com.

On September 8, security cameras at a residence captured three intruders breaking in and making off with various items. [Image provided by victim Myunghee Ko]

In the heart of LA’s Koreatown, there’s a rising tide of fear and indignation. As each day dawns, an unsettling pattern emerges: burglaries targeting Korean-American homes during daylight hours. These are not clandestine operations carried out under the cover of night, but audacious intrusions occurring in broad daylight. This reality undermines the basic premise of safety one expects within the confines of the home.

The unsettling experience of Myunghee Ko, a resident near Lorraine/8th Street in Koreatown LA, paints a vivid picture of this menace. On September 8, returning from work at approximately 4:40 p.m., Ko found her front door ajar. Entering, she discovered clothes that should have been upstairs scattered near the entrance. A further inspection revealed ransacked rooms and a shattered window.

Alarmingly, all 11 of her home’s security cameras had been compromised. Accessing the remaining footage, Ko observed three black intruders, armed with knives, hammers, and other weapons, scouring her home. It became clear that the culprits gained entry through a second-floor patio, aided by an old tree adjacent to the driveway.

Recalling the harrowing experience, Ko shared her son’s concerns: “My son feared what could’ve happened had I returned while they were still inside.” She added, “They not only ransacked our home, damaging floors and stairs in the process, but also took valuables amounting to over $100,000. This includes two Rolex watches, jewelry, luxury items, and a safe containing cash.”

Her account underscores the vulnerabilities faced by Korean-American families, many of whom have been under the erroneous expectation of daytime safety in their homes.

Ko’s tale is not unique. At least seven houses have reported similar experiences in just the past month. These are not just mere statistics; they represent families traumatized, with some even resorting to standing guard at their properties.

What’s particularly unsettling is the criminals’ targeting strategy. There’s a prevalent, albeit misconceived, notion that Korean households hoard significant sums of cash. This stereotype, whether stemming from cultural biases or misinformation, endangers an entire community.

Another resident, surnamed Kim, living near Olympic and 3rd street, shared a hauntingly similar tale of burglars smashing windows and taking a significant sum last year.

“Around 1 p.m., while the house was empty, a group of six to seven intruders broke a window to enter. They took everything, including our safe,” Kim recounted. “Upon reviewing our CCTV footage, I noticed what looked like teenagers casing our house just prior to the incident.” Kim’s efforts to seek justice were in vain: “Even after reporting it to the police, they failed to apprehend the suspects. I was informed that these young, unarmed culprits would likely be released shortly after any arrest.”

The police’s lackluster response, suggesting the young offenders would likely be freed soon after an arrest, is troubling. The LAPD’s data further elevates concerns. Of the 568 burglaries reported in 2023 by the Olympic Police Department, an alarming 33% were break-ins at stand-alone homes. The fact that the Olympic Police Department ranks sixth in burglary cases among the 21 LAPD stations further underscores the seriousness of the issue.

The statement from LAPD Public Information Officer Tony Lim offers little comfort. Emphasizing the understaffed nature of the LAPD, he voices his frustration: “The alarming frequency of these suspects being released post-arrest leaves us feeling rather helpless.” For Koreatown’s residents, such words provide no reassurance.

Clearly, the situation in Koreatown is dire. The local police, stretched thin and seemingly ineffectual against this surge of burglaries, places residents in a precarious position. While supporting measures to enhance police strength and resources could be a path forward, there’s an urgent need for immediate, decisive action. The residents of Koreatown cannot afford to compromise on the sanctity and safety of their homes.

Collectively, we must condemn this unchecked criminal activity and the evident apathy displayed by the authorities. Safety, especially within one’s home, should never be a privilege but a basic right. The time is now to demand accountability, ensuring that the families of Koreatown can once again find peace and security within their walls.

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By Mooyoung Lee   lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com