'Rock Burglars' strike three more PV homes Emily Bittner The Arizona Republic Nov. 3, 2003 05:55 PM

PARADISE VALLEY - The Rock Burglars struck at least three homes within a two-mile radius of each other this Thanksgiving weekend, targeting homes that looked empty.

The Rock Burglars, so nicknamed by police, have been burglarizing homes in tony Paradise Valley since 1993. The smash-and-grab team contains at least two thieves and possibly as many as six.

Nineteen Paradise Valley homes have been hit this year and police have few leads in the case. Police had no estimate of the value of the merchandise taken.

The Rock Burglars have a straightforward way of breaking into homes.

They toss a large rock or other heavy object through the window of a luxury home, climb through the hole and nab jewelry, cash and handguns.

"They're successful because they'll go months and months and months without hitting us," said Det. Sgt. Alan Laitsch, who has worked on the case since it began. "It makes it tough for us to set up a stakeout."

The three homes hit this week - one in the 5400 block of East Fanfol, another in the 5600 block of East Via Buena Vista and the third in the 5600 block of East Caballo - were definitely Rock Burglar victims, police said. They were all broken into between Thursday and Monday. Jewelry was taken from only one of the homes, police said. The other two home owners weren't sure if any items were taken.

Jewelry was also taken from a fourth home, in the 3600 block of East Marlette. Police said that home might have been a Rock Burglar target.

The Rock Burglars approach houses on foot so they don't arouse neighbors' suspicious with a strange car, Laitsch said. They're especially hard to spot because light-sensitive Paradise Valley has streetlights only along major streets. They smash windows in the backs of homes, usually to the master bedroom or bathroom, where few alarms exist and where most people store their jewelry.

The town has averaged about 11 rock burglaries a year since 1993, Laitsch said. Some burglary-free stretches have lasted as long as seven or eight months.

Over the years, police have become frustratingly familiar with the burglars' exacting methods, he said.

"Typically, if it's not a Rock Burglar here, we're going to get a different mode of operation," Laitsch said. "If it's a doper burglar and the guy just needs to get his fix every day, he's going to eat stuff out of the refrigerator and take alcohol and the VCR. He's going to trample all over the house."

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