'Lowest point': First their houses slid off the hill, then suspected burglars came

Two people were arrested Thursday in Rolling Hills Estates on suspicion of attempting to burglarize homes that were evacuated in the major landslide that struck earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

A neighbor saw the suspected burglars early Thursday and notified authorities, who attempted to surround the pair, according to a statement from the city of Rolling Hills Estates. Deputies said the suspects then tried to escape into the active landslide area — which has remained closed to the public amid concerns about its stability, according to tweets from the sheriff’s Lomita station.

With assistance from Torrance police drone operators, deputies were able to detain the two people. Their identities were not immediately released.

A sheriff's deputy holds on to an arm of a person handcuffed while standing next to a patrol car.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy arrests one of two people suspected of attempting to burglarize homes that were evacuated after a landslide in Rolling Hills Estates.

(Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

The suspects targeted two homes that had been red-tagged Saturday, but the stolen property was recovered, officials said. It wasn’t clear if the homes were further damaged in the break-ins.

“We’ve already gone through all this garbage, and then on top of that —” Randy Troy trailed off, shaking his head. “This happens with every disaster. … People are down, and you’re taking advantage of somebody at their lowest point in life. … What a scumbag.”

Troy’s home on Peartree Lane wasn’t targeted in the burglary, he said, probably because it is among the most damaged in the landslide — now down the hillside, with parts of its roof collapsed and walls caved in.

“It’s unbelievable that, on top of everything else, somebody had to have their home ransacked,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. “It’s unfortunate that people would take advantage of a situation like this.”

She said she requested that the Sheriff’s Department — which has been monitoring the street since the landslide — increase its patrols.

Since Saturday, 17 homes on Peartree Lane have been evacuated, with 12 red-tagged, deemed unsafe to enter because of the landslide. Five others were evacuated Tuesday after a sewer line broke because of the shifting ground.

Although city officials have said the land movement has slowed, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said Thursday that the ground had continued to move.

“The movement has not stopped,” Marrone said Thursday evening. “We don’t know how long it’s going to take before that movement stops.”

The cause of the clear-day landslide hasn’t been determined. No geologist has been to the site yet, but Hahn said one should be coming out next week to begin analysis.

The homeowners association, which is responsible for hiring the geological experts, has started working with a specific firm, city officials said.

Many of the families who lost their homes and land in the slide have expressed appreciation for local leaders’ continued focus; support has included financial assistance for temporary housing. Hahn said she was hoping the state would also declare the site an emergency, though that decision is under review.

“There’s really good people really trying to help us,” Troy, 60, said. He said he was trying to focus on the positive but that understanding why this had happened, and what it means for the future, was also weighing on him.

“We need answers,” Troy said. “But you know, you got to have a little bit of patience, right?”

In the meantime, Troy said he wanted people to understand that his street of mostly townhouses and multi-unit homes was not some enclave for the wealthy.

“All these folks are working-class people. We work hard every day,” Troy said. “This isn’t just like, ‘Oh, well, this investment is gone. Let me go to the next one.’ This is your life, it’s your life savings.

“And then everything you’ve collected for your entire life is in that home, and we had literally 20 minutes to get out,” he said. “It’s just devastating.”

Troy said he and his wife were able to pack up some of their family photos and cherished items, but they couldn’t find their wedding album in time. And Troy — a huge L.A. sports fan — ran out of time to grab his favorite memorabilia, including signed balls and trophies. He’s hopeful it’s not all crushed and may one day be retrievable.

Marrone said that when geologists give the all-clear, residents will receive help accessing some of their belongings.

“We have this beautiful mirror from [when] we helped our friend, when she moved to Israel, and it’s like a one-of-a-kind thing,” Troy said. “And I’m sure that that’s smashed. I mean, there’s so many. … It’s like every day I think of a new thing.”


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