Of backpacks and burglars

For many residents and cops across Echo Park and Silver Lake, the most common of sights has also become a sign of trouble: a kid bearing a backpack. Juveniles with backpacks have been among the prime suspects in a spike in home burglaries in Echo Park, Elysian Heights and Silver Lake, including the break-in of Councilman Tom LaBonge’s home. Said one LAPD email alert: “Please report any suspicious activity if you see these juveniles possibly riding in bicycles carrying back packs, loitering near and around a home or car and entering back yards or attempting to scale buildings.”

Last week, residents of northeast Silver Lake heard this message from a police helicopter flying over what looked like a group of high school students: “Stop. Yes you with the backpack on the dirt road.” Said one resident via email: “Kids with backpacks are apparently freaking people out … ”

Many of the burglaries have taken place in the afternoon after school lets out, a time of day that when hordes of students with backpacks flood out of schools and into the streets. With most schools having eliminated individual lockers years ago, the backpack, and the occasional bike messenger bag, has emerged as an essential student accessory and storage unit. “There is not a kid that does not come in without a backpack,” said Maryann Hayashi, who runs an after-school program at her Angeleno Heights nonprofit, Central City Action Committee.

On a recent afternoon visit to Central City, backpacks were piled on the floor and on a table. One middle school student with a plaid backpack said the police face a difficult task to find burglars among the pack of backpack owners. “That’s pretty complicated because there are so many people with backpacks around here.”

Related stories:
Update on Silver Lake & Elysian Heights burglaries. The Eastsider
Backpacks and burglars have Elysian Heights worried. The Eastsider
Councilman’s Silver Lake home burglarized. The Eastsider

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