LA 'flocking' burglars targeting celebrities prefer cash and jewelry over iPads, laptops

'Flocking" burglary victims (left to right) Alanis Morissette, Emmy Rossum and Nicki Minaj are shown in this combination image. (AP file photos)
Updated 01 April 2017
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LA 'flocking' burglars targeting celebrities prefer cash and jewelry over iPads, laptops

LOS ANGELES: The gang members start their days in the impoverished neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, but their real work begins in some of the city’s wealthiest enclaves.
Each day, the gang hand-picks teams of burglars, who ditch their usual attire for button-down shirts and hop into shiny luxury sedans to blend in as they search for prime targets: homes with no one inside and lots of jewelry and other valuables on hand.
Celebrities including Nicki Minaj and Alanis Morissette are among the suspected recent victims of a crime trend known as “flocking,” so named because gang members flock like birds to areas where residential burglaries provide the biggest payoff.
They knock on the front door and, if no one answers, break in. The burglars often do not know whose home they are targeting, making it inevitable in Los Angeles that they sometimes hit houses of the nation’s best-known actors, singers and other entertainment figures, police said.
Since January, other victims have included Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Lakers star Nick Young. Actress Emmy Rossum reported $150,000 in jewelry taken last week from a safe in her home.
After news of the burglary broke Tuesday, the “Shameless” star tweeted, “Thank you to the LAPD. I fully support the police efforts and dedication.”
Morissette had about $2 million in jewelry and valuables stolen from her Brentwood mansion. Young lost about $500,000 in jewelry and other items during a burglary at his Tarzana home, police said.
So far, no arrests have been made in any of the celebrity cases.
Although some of the recent break-ins have shared similarities, authorities do not believe a single group is responsible or that stars are being targeted. However, investigators suspect that most of the burglaries are being committed by members of the same street gang, the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips.
Their day follows a regular routine. Gang leaders meet in the morning on their home turf and select crews of four or five people from a pool of about 100 gang members — male and female — who will do the burglaries that day, Los Angeles Police Detective William Dunn said.
The crews rotate so the same people are not seen in same neighborhoods and become recognizable.
“They are looking for homes where they think there’s a lot of jewelry inside, BMWs, Mercedes, brand-new cars in the driveway,” Dunn said.
Once they identify a house that looks empty, they send one person to knock on the door, Dunn said.
If no one responds, other gang members break through a side door or smash a window. If no alarm sounds, they head immediately to the master bedroom. In most cases, they are out of the homes within about three minutes and head back to South Los Angeles to pawn any stolen jewelry.
“They don’t take televisions or laptops or iPads,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Michael Maher, a member of the agency’s specialized burglary task force. “Typically it’s a hunt for cash, jewelry and weapons.”
The teams take care to look for houses that appear free of surveillance cameras or other security systems. If someone answers the door, they will say they are at the wrong house and just walk away, police said.
Authorities will not discuss security measures at any of the houses that were hit, so it’s unclear if those homes had alarms or fences. But, speaking generally, police said many people do not turn on their alarms and buy cheap safes that can be muscled out by determined burglars.
Even if an alarm does go off, the noise sometimes just motives the teams to work faster because they know they can be out of the house by the time the alarm company calls the homeowner, then contacts police, Dunn said.
Gang members arrested for “flocking” have told investigators their goal is to get about $10,000 per day from the burglaries, Maher said. The money is used to support the gangs and create bail funds to free members who get arrested, Maher said.
“These gangs have become more sophisticated, and flocking is a large portion of that,” Maher said. “It is sort of evolving what was a street-level thug. We see high-level gang members driving extremely expensive vehicles, wearing very nice clothing committing residential burglaries.”
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Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .


Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a top award for comedy

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago
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Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a top award for comedy

  • Louis-Dreyfus is the 21st Mark Twain recipient, joining a list that includes Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Carol Burnett

WASHINGTON: After a 35-year acting career and with two iconic television characters to her name — Elaine Benes of “Seinfeld” and foul-mouthed Vice President Selina Meyer — Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been honored with the Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in comedy.
On Sunday night at Washington’s Kennedy Center, the 57-year-old actress received a stream of testimonials from celebrities including Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert and 2010 Mark Twain recipient Tina Fey, touching on the multiple aspects of her career.
“We both started comedy in Chicago,” said Fey, paying tribute by tracking the similarities between their lives.
“We both moved on to ‘Saturday Night Live.’ We both lost our virginity to Brad Hall,” referring to Louis-Dreyfus’ husband and former SNL cast mate, sitting next to the honoree. Fey praised the “secret precision” of her comedy and her willingness to make her Seinfeld character so flawed.
“Julia let Elaine be selfish and petty and sarcastic and a terrible, terrible dancer,” Fey said. “Julia’s never been afraid to be unlikable — not on screen and not in person.”
Louis-Dreyfus is the 21st Mark Twain recipient, joining a list that includes Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Carol Burnett. Bill Cosby, the winner in 2009, had his award rescinded earlier this year after he was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
During last year’s ceremony to honor David Letterman, Cosby’s name was never mentioned. But this year, two of the performers felt comfortable making Cosby jokes. Late night host Stephen Colbert displayed a sign proclaiming, “167 days since the last Un-Twaining.”
With his fingers crossed, he told Louis-Dreyfus, “I think you’ll be OK.”
Later Keegan-Michael Key come onstage, dressed as Mark Twain himself and proceeded to roast many of the previous award recipients. When a picture of Cosby was briefly shown, Michael-Key quickly moved things along and said, “It’s OK, he’s not watching,” then added that he doubted PBS was a popular channel “in the penitentiary.”
Seinfeld, while on the red carpet before the ceremony, recalled first meeting Louis-Dreyfus during an informal audition. His iconic sitcom, “Seinfeld,” was still in the planning stages and producer Larry David knew Louis-Dreyfus from their time together on “Saturday Night Live.”
“We had just two short pages of script, and we sat down to read the dialogue together,” Seinfeld said. “As soon as she opened her mouth, I knew she was the one.”
Seinfeld also credited Louis-Dreyfus for having the confidence and strength of personality to hold her own on what he called “a very male show.”
That confidence was evident very early for Louis-Dreyfus, who said she knew as a young child that she had a gift for comedy.
“The first time I really knew was when I stuffed raisins in my nose and my mother laughed. I ended up in the emergency room because they wouldn’t come out!” Louis-Dreyfus said before the ceremony.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani grew up in Pakistan and never saw an episode of “Seinfeld” until he immigrated to the USas an adult.
“But I became a huge fan as soon as I moved here,” he said.
The co-writer of the movie “The Big Sick” recalled her iconic, slightly convulsive “Elaine Benes dance” on the show, which he credits to Louis-Dreyfus’ gift for physical comedy.
“There are some comedians who think physical comedy is beneath them,” he said. “But she was just fearless and ego-less.”
At the end of the night, Louis-Dreyfus accepted her award with an extended comedic bit and a few shots at new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The veteran comedic actress first drew laughs by repeatedly referencing her true life’s ambition to be a respected dramatic actress_stopping in mid-speech to deliver a monologue from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”
A native of the Washington suburbs in Maryland, Louis-Dreyfus is a graduate of the elite Holton-Arms school, alma mater of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of assault.
Louis-Dreyfus make a veiled but unmistakable reference to Ford’s testimony_framing it around her performance in high school of the play “Serendipity.”
“I can remember every single aspect of that play that night, so much so that I would testify under oath about it,” she said, to a round of laughter and applause. “But I can’t remember who drove me there or who drove me home.”
Louis-Dreyfus emerged from Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe before joining the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” After her nine-year run on “Seinfeld,” her turn as Vice President Selina Meyer on “Veep” earned her six consecutive Emmy Awards.
The upcoming seventh and final season of “Veep” was delayed as Louis-Dreyfus received treatment for breast cancer. That season is currently in production.
PBS will air the Twain event on Nov. 19.