Since December, burglars and thieves have increasingly targeted businesses and construction sites in Morgan Hill—and the recent arrests of multiple suspects has not changed the pattern—according to authorities.
In fact, one suspect who was caught in the act of burglarizing a local restaurant in December may have been involved in more property crimes since then, according to Morgan Hill Police.
Over the two-month period from December 2020 to January, reported incidents of commercial burglaries have jumped by 270 percent over the same period in 2019-20, Morgan Hill Police reported earlier this week. Specifically, there have been 22 commercial burglaries reported in the recent two-month period, compared to six incidents a year prior.
MHPD’s crime analyst has identified two trends in the recent burglaries. One is the increase in thefts at businesses along the Monterey Road business corridor through Morgan Hill, south of downtown. The suspects have been smashing glass windows and doors, stealing cash registers and making a quick getaway, police said.
Another recent trend is the increasing number of burglaries of construction and storage containers at job sites and sporting venues in Morgan Hill, police said. Suspects have gained entry and stolen construction equipment and landscaping tools. Most of these burglaries have been occurring on Wednesdays, between the hours of 11pm and 1am.
Over the last two months, Morgan Hill Police have arrested six suspects, and are looking for six additional alleged burglars and thieves they have identified through their investigation of various incidents, police said.
MHPD “has been successful in making these arrests because our community has been vigilant in reporting suspicious activity,” the police department said in a press release.
Morgan Hill Police further noted that one of two suspects arrested during a Dec. 9 burglary of Erik’s Deli, 309 Vineyard Blvd., has been released from custody and is a “person of interest” in incidents that have occurred since then.
On Dec. 9, MHPD officers responded to the restaurant on the report of a burglary in progress. Witnesses reported seeing a male suspect break a window with a foreign object and enter the business, according to police.
The suspect quickly exited the business and fled the area in a vehicle, witnesses told the police. Officers located the vehicle as it was leaving the area and conducted a traffic stop. Two men were detained without incident and later identified as the suspects involved in the burglary.
The suspects were identified as Francisco Araiza Rodriguez, 37, and Antonio Ledesma Rodriguez, 33, according to authorities.
Morgan Hill Police this week did not specify which of the suspects they think might be involved in other recent incidents. Both suspects made bail after their Dec. 9 arrest, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Araiza Rodriguez posted $36,000 bail earlier this month, and failed to appear for a hearing that was scheduled for Jan. 21, South County Supervising Deputy DA Vishal Bathija said.
That wasn’t the first time that Araiza Rodriguez missed his scheduled proceedings, and he faces at least eight counts of commercial burglary in three cases dating back to February 2020, according to court records.
On Feb. 25, he was charged with five felony counts of second degree burglary, and was released on “supervised own recognizance,” the court records say. The DA’s office objected to this release because Araiza Rodriguez “was a threat to the business community,” Bathija said.
Then on April 20, the DA’s office charged Araiza Rodriguez for two additional burglaries that occurred before the February incidents. He was arrested, then released again on May 24 with no bail, the court records say.
He then failed to appear for hearings scheduled in September and October 2020. A $25,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.
Araiza Rodriguez was then arrested in relation to the Dec. 9 burglary in Morgan Hill, as well as the outstanding warrants. The DA’s office requested a total bail of $36,000, and he was arraigned and remanded to custody on Dec. 10, according to authorities. But that was not enough to keep him in custody as he made bail on Jan. 3, the court records show.
Then at the Jan. 21 hearing—after Araiza Rodriguez failed to show up—Bathija asked the judge for a total of $280,000 worth of warrants for his arrest. The judge granted the bail request, and Araiza Rodriguez is now a “fugitive from justice,” Bathija said.
“I argued to the court that previous efforts to deal with his custody status have not protected the business community in Santa Clara County,” Bathija said. “The court agreed a higher bail was necessary to protect the community.”
All of the incidents for which Araiza Rodriguez is charged over the last year occurred in South County.
Ledesma Rodriguez, the other suspect in the Dec. 9 Morgan Hill burglary, is also charged with felony commercial burglary. He has also posted bail, and is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9.
Morgan Hill Police reported at least two more commercial burglaries on Jan. 20, but have not identified any suspects. One of these occurred just before midnight at Strixe Lounge and Betsy’s restaurant—which are attached to Morgan Hill Bowl—at Tennant Station.
A suspect or suspects entered the building by breaking a glass window, according to police reports. Betsy’s restaurant co-owner Randa Habib said “it didn’t look like they took anything.” As a safety precaution, Habib said she removes all cash from the cash register every day, and leaves the money tray drawer open. This likely prevented the Jan. 20 suspect from stealing the register or trying to break it open.
Habib said she has taken this precaution since a previous incident when someone tried to break open the restaurant’s rear door a few months ago.
The late-night burglary did not deter business at Betsy’s, which was open for takeout breakfast the next morning.
Another burglary on Jan. 20 was reported at a construction site at Hill Road and East Dunne Avenue, according to police reports. The thief or thieves stole about $8,000 worth of tools.
“Please continue to remain alert and report suspicious activity, secure your property, empty cash registers prior to closing for the night and for individuals at job sites secure all containers and tools,” MHPD said in a press release. “The Morgan Hill Police Department believes the best way to fight crime is in partnership with our community so please continue to report suspicious activity without delay.”