EAGLE ROCK (CBSLA.com) — A suspected serial car burglar in Eagle Rock got caught but no jail time, and that had some victims upset.
In a video posted on Facebook, a juvenile with a backpack can be seen walking up to a car and trying to open the door. Campus police at Occidental College said he broke into a number of students’ cars in early November.
Campus Safety Chief Victor Clay eventually caught the suspected thief at a nearby gas station.
But instead of reporting the homeless teen to the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Clay gave him $20, recorded a video apology from him saying: “I’m sorry for breaking into your cars, and I won’t do it again,” and told him he could come by their office if he ever needed help if he promised to stop stealing from Occidental.
Clay, who declined CBS2’S Rachel Kim’s request for an interview, told the campus student-run newspaper that some of the victims’ parents aren’t happy about his approach.
“I do understand the parents’ concern, especially if they paid for their car. So it’s a bigger issue that doesn’t even have to do with how compassionate you. Some people want justice,” said student Darla Howell. “If it was my car, I probably would be a little bit upset. But I don’t think I’d advocate for any severe punishment.”
Freshman Natalie El-Hai has a different perspective. “It’s important to be compassionate to individuals in need. I think it was the right decision.”
Clay said he didn’t report the teen to the LAPD because it would take an officer out of the field for hours to process him, and he wouldn’t go to jail for stealing $20.
He said based on his law enforcement experience, sending the teen to jail wouldn’t solve any problems because he would end up back on the street.
“If it had happened to me, I might be operating on a lot of anger,” student Jasper Laca said. “I think what was done was probably the best that could’ve been done in the situation.”
The victims can report the crimes to the LAPD if they choose.