The city of Ventura has been the epicenter of a string of armed robberies and burglaries in 2018, and police are working to solve them, with several arrests made thus far.

In July, robberies involved advanced burgling techniques, including cutting power to surveillance and alarm systems, at two jewelry stores located on Main Street in downtown Ventura. The first on July 13 took place at Ormachea Jewelry, where police say burglars cut power to the building before taking an estimated $8,000 in jewelry. The second, on July 22 at Carlson Jewelers, was similar in that the power was cut to the building, though no estimate of how much was taken was given to authorities.

Later in the same month, a robbery at the SPARC Second Hand Store in downtown Ventura resulted in stolen jewelry and cash.

An armed robbery occurred in October at the H&H Liquor on the 1800 block of E. Main Street. The suspects were armed with guns, said police, and demanded cash from the clerk.

Most recently, two armed robberies occurred within days of each other in November. On Sunday, Nov. 25, an armed robbery occurred at the Thomas 99 Cent Store at 1700 E. Thompson Boulevard. During this incident, a customer attempted to stop the robbers as they fled, but was pepper-sprayed by one of the suspects, who escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, an armed robbery occurred at the AutoZone at 2610 E. Main St., wherein a suspect, wearing a mask and brandishing a rifle, escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Esteban Oseguera

On Nov. 30, an arrest was made in connection with an alleged attempted robbery and battery of a person on Sheridan Way in Ventura, which also occurred on Nov. 27. The suspect in this incident was arrested and identified as 23-year-old Isaac Lopez, who was on parole for assault.

Finally, on Nov. 30, Doc’s Market on Ramona Street in west Ventura was robbed by a man wearing a mask and brandishing a handgun. Ventura police say that the man demanded money from the register, after which the suspect fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Ventura Police Department Cmdr. Tom Higgins says that typically, robberies tend to pick up around the holidays.

“In that aspect, that’s not uncommon for them to be happening,” said Higgins. As far as the burglaries that appear as though they required some planning — such as the jewelry store events in July — Higgins says that they “come in waves.”

“We’ve had burglaries in the past with crews coming up from other areas, such as L.A.,” said Higgins. “We’ve seen this going on for a while but haven’t had that in several months. We could tell those were kind of related because we would get hit here and then Camarillo and Thousand Oaks would get hit back toward L.A.”

As for as a reason why, Higgins says that some of the changing state laws could play a role in any increase.

Earnesto Solis

“Since some of the laws changed in California we’re seeing some of the crimes happening more frequently,” said Higgins, specifically pointing to Realignment, AB 109. “A lot of these people are known offenders and are out and about, I think that’s part of the issue.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 109 into law in April of 2011 with the aim is meet the court-ordered mandate to reduce the number of state prison inmates, realign state responsibilities to local governments and curtail state spending.

Ventura Police Department Sargent Matt Cain echoed the same sentiment.

“You have people who would otherwise be in custody,” said Cain.

Cain cited as examples two suspects arrested and currently in custody, one in Ventura County jail and the other in Santa Barbara, in connection to at several liquor and smoke shop robberies in Ventura. Earnesto Solis and Esteban Oseguera allegedly were the perpetrators behind the armed robbery at Sam’s Smoke Shop on Nov. 2, as well as at H&H Liquor, both on Main Street in Ventura.

Cain says that a third individual is currently being sought in connection with the crimes, and that the arrests came through a joint effort with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

“Solis, he’s a prose offender. He was released early on basically what they’re calling post release offender status, what used to be parole and is now prose,” said Cain. “He was released because it was mostly narcotics and he’s out doing robberies.”

Both Cain and Higgins said that they believe there has been an increase in these types of crimes over 2017, but numbers won’t be available until early 2019.

“We’re doing what we can,” said Cain. “If you live in an area where you think there’s an increase in robberies, keep your doors locked. We encourage surveillance systems — functioning systems, a lot of people have them but they don’t work. Just be aware that we’re working around the clock as detectives to solve these cases. It’s just a matter of putting evidence together.”

Anyone with information on criminal activities should call the Ventura Police Department at 805-339-4488.