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[whitespace] Night Jobs

Cupertino--They come at night--usually on weekends--when they believe the homes will be empty. They've entered through rear windows and garage doors. Sometimes they cut power lines, disabling burglar alarms and lights.

Police believe the same band of burglars have hit as many as 60 homes throughout west Silicon Valley since the beginning of the year. The roving group of bandits began their break-in binge in Santa Clara and have since moved on to Sunnyvale, Saratoga and Cupertino. Their last heist went down on Huntridge Lane in Cupertino on October 1. Sheriff's deputies say it almost certainly won't be their last.

Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Flood believes the burglars work in a group, and that they scope their prey out carefully before pulling off a heist.

"They're out there watching, " he says. "Once they see someone leaving, they call their buds in and just do it."

In at least one case in San Jose, a break-in occurred while unsupervised children were playing on the home's second floor. The children said later they heard noises in the house, but didn't think anything of it. The burglars got away unseen and the children weren't harmed.

According to Flood, the burglars strike on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and usually dump everything in a front room to sort through while a lookout keeps an eye out the blinds for any sign of return or the cops.

During the last week of September, the burglars broke into a home on Terrace Drive in Cupertino and made off with $50,000 in jewelry. It was a typical take, Flood says, this group goes after the small, easily concealed merchandise.

"They're not carrying out televisions and stuff," he says.

Aside from preying on homes of the affluent, police say the burglars seem also to be singling out homes owned by Asians. This has lead both the Santa Clara County Sheriff and Sunnyvale police investigators to surmise that the culprits are also Asian.

One suspect--an Asian man in his 20s--was caught on film at an automated teller in San Bruno when he tried to make a cash withdrawal with a credit card stolen from one of the homes.

In one of the most heavily hit areas in Cupertino, residents are banding together to watch out for each other's homes.

"I feel like my neighborhood isn't safe," says Hema Kundargi, who lives on Santa Teresa Avenue. Kundargi and other residents on her block, as well as Wilkinson Avenue and Hyannisport Drive have organized a neighborhood watch group in an area where at least five burglaries have taken place.

"I have a teenager, and I'm taking her with me whenever I go anywhere," says Wilkinson Avenue resident Sue Ghaderi.

Sgt. Steve Angus says any resident wishing to start a neighborhood watch group should call him for details at 408-777-3176.
Michael Learmonth, with reporting by Steve Enders and Justin Berton

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