LA PUENTE >> For the third year running, La Puente has been named one of the 50 safest cities in California by security organization Safe Wise.
The city earned the 48th spot on the SafeWise Report’s 50 Safest Cities in California list for 2016.
“Besides its enviably low crime rate, what caught our attention about La Puente is the way it cares for its children,” SafeWise said in a written statement.
“ La Puente’s Self-Esteem Through Activities Recreation and Sports program provides elementary school children with a diverse assortment of after-school activities. La Puente’s Teen V.O.I.C.E. program is a volunteer-based program for teens ages 13 to 18, and its Tiny Tot program helps build the self-esteem of children ages three to five.”
City Manager David Carmany said the designation “validated we are on the right track,” but said the majority of credit belongs to the city’s partners at the Los Angels County Sheriff’s Department, as well as city staff.
Six other San Gabriel Valley cities made the list of California’s top 50 safest cities.
Sierra Madre ranked 9th safest city in California, Walnut ranked 20th, Temple City ranked 38th, Diamond Bar ranked 42nd, Chino Hills ranked 47th and La Mirada ranked 49th.
SIERRA MADRE >> The Sierra Madre City Council discuss hiring the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to take over night patrols in the city later this month.
The Sierra Madre Police Department is woefully understaffed due to budgetary concerns and uncertainty about the department’s future, according to city officials. Nine of the department’s 20 full-time officers have left in recent months.
“Although the current staff is working to keep the community safe, this staffing model in not sustainable,” city officials said in a written statement.
After a previous plan to have Arcadia police patrol Sierra Madre between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. seven days a week was rejected by Arcadia officials, Sierra Madre is now turning to the sheriff’s department to take over night patrols.
The issue will be discussed at the upcoming Feb. 23 council meeting.
A staff report is available on the city’s website at www.cityofsierramadre.com/cityhall/agendas.
SIERRA MADRE >> Police urged vigilance Saturday morning after discovering about 30 mailboxes had been tampered with in the northeast portion of Sierra Madre, and mail possibly stolen.
The spate of mailbox break-ins was first noticed about 7 a.m., when a resident of the 400 block of N. Canon Avenue went out for a walk and noticed his mailbox had been tampered with, and mail had possibly been stolen, Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement.
Additional calls soon poured into the police station.
“At this point it appears that approximately 30 mailboxes were tampered with and the incident occurred overnight,” according to the police statement.
Anyone else who noticed their mailbox broken into or otherwise tampered with was asked to report is as well. Police are working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in the investigation.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, police said.
“One of the prime ways in which these identity theft suspects obtain personal information is by stealing mail and your personal mail can be a gold mine to determined criminals,” according to the police statement.
Residents with non-locking mailboxes are encouraged to replace them with ones fitted with locking mechanisms.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sierra Madre police at 626-355-1414.
SIERRA MADRE >> Sierra Madre’s city officials will meet with Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials Monday to discuss the sheriff’s department’s proposal to take over police services in the city, replacing the Sierra Madre Police Department.
The Sheriff’s Contract Proposal Committee will meet with sheriff’s officials at 6 p.m. at the Sierra Madre Council Chambers, 232 Sierra Madre Blvd., city officials said in a written statement.
Those unable to attend may email concerns or questions to the Public Safety Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> A 23-year-old hiker died Sunday after falling from a 180-foot cliff in the Chantry Flats area of the Angeles National Forest, officials said.
Passers-by first called authorities about 2 p.m. to report finding the body, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The man had been hiking near Sturtevant Falls when he fell from the cliff, according to Sgt. Steve Ruiz.
Another hiker witnessed the fall and was working his way down the mountain to get help when the other group of hikers came upon the victim while hiking on a trail below, Lt. Ron Daily said.
Paramedics and members of the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team responded and pronounced the man dead at the scene, Ruiz said.
The investigation remained in its early stages Sunday night.
Coroner’s officials and sheriff’s homicide detectives planned to pause their investigation in the remote forest area overnight and resume Monday morning.
SIERRA MADRE >> The Sierra Madre Police Department ceased handling calls for about an hour Sunday in response to an “emergency situation” at the police station, reportedly after someone brought a grenade to the facility.
Few details were initially available regarding the incident, which began about 4 p.m. at the police department, 242 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre police announced via Facebook that police services, both emergency and non-emergency, were being handled by the Monrovia Police Department, “Due to an emergency situation at the station.”
Sierra Madre police could not be reached for comment.
Officials did not confirm initial reports that the incident stemmed from someone bringing a grenade to the police station.
City officials announced the station has safe and police services returned to normal shortly after 5 p.m.
SIERRA MADRE >> A Sierra Madre man confronted a trio of burglars in front of his home early Wednesday, chasing them off before police arrested the suspects, officials said.
A man heard noises about 4 a.m. coming from the front of his Grove Lane home, Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement. He looked out his window to see someone breaking into his car.
“The resident went outside and confronted the suspect, who was now inside his vehicle, and a brief struggle ensued,” according to the statement. “The suspect had a large silver object in his hand which the resident felt was a gun. Fearing for his safety the resident backed away from the suspect allowing the suspect flee southbound to a dark-colored SUV.
Another suspect ran out from another nearby home and jumped into the SUV, which sped away, police.
Police quickly found and stopped a vehicle matching the reported description and arrested three suspects after finding them in possession of suspected stolen property and drugs, according to the police statement. Police were still looking for the rightful owners of some of the property.
“We discourage residents from confronting suspects for their safety but are glad the victim is okay,” Sierra Madre Police Larry Giannone said.
Jesus Rojas, 20, Geovany Martinez, 19, and Aaron Vazquez, 33, all of El Monte, were booked on suspicion of attempted robbery and possession of stolen property, police said. They were being held in lieu of $50,000 each pending their initial court appearances.
PHOTOS [top to bottom]: Jesus Rojas, 20, Geovany Martinez, 19, and Aaron Vazquez, 33, all of El Monte. (Courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department)
SIERRA MADRE >> A Sierra Madre who disappeared Thursday morning after she withdrew thousands of dollars from her bank account to give to scammers posing as IRS agents was found safe Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The woman 70, received a phone call about 9 a.m. claiming to be from an IRS representative who told her she owed money to the agency, Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said. But police believe the caller was a con-artist.
The woman’s husband reported that she went to her bank and withdrew $5,000 at the request of the caller, Giannone said. She was to be given further instruction on how to send or deliver the money to the scammers. It was unclear what those arrangements may have been.
She then vanished, police said.
Police announced shortly after 6 p.m. that the woman had been found safe, but released no further details regarding what had taken place.
The woman was victimized by a common scam that re-emerges each tax season and has been seen throughout the nation, but Sierra Madre was hit especially hard Thursday as the con artists targeted the foothill community.
More than 50 Sierra Madre residents who reported receiving similar calls on Thursday, the chief said.
Residents lost about $6,000 in total to the scammers, police said.
The phone call received by Bargen came from the same phone number that called other Sierra Madre residents Thursday in the IRS scam.
Giannone declined to discuss the phone number in more detail, citing the ongoing investigation.
Neighboring police agencies reported receiving sporadic reports of the IRS scam in their cities, but not the type of surge in scam attempts seen Thursday in Sierra Madre.
Police arrested a female Regional Occupational Program teacher Thursday on suspicion of having sex with a male Gladstone High School student, officials announced Friday afternoon.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP teacher Eddee Kovacs Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre turned herself in to police about 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Sierra Madre police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
(Detectives) interviewed her. At the conclusion of their interview, they determined there was enough evidence for an arrest,” Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
Police booked her on suspicion of having sexual intercourse with a minor, .
The allegation came to light about noon, when a 16-year-old Gladstone High School student reported the encounter to a school officials, the chief said.
Kolos posted $20,000 bail and was released from custody Thursday night, records show. She could not be reached for comment Friday.
Representatives of the East San Gabriel Valley ROP also could not be reached for comment after hours Friday.
Giannone said the alleged misconduct occurred within recent months, but declined to provide a specific time-frame.
It was unclear what subject Kolos taught through the ROP program.
Covina police initially investigated the allegation, but turned the case over to their counterparts in Sierra Madre after determining the alleged crime took place in that city.
Giannone declined to say exactly where the alleged molestation occurred.
“The cooperation of the Azusa Unified School District, the Covina Police Department, and the quick work of Sierra Madre Police Department detectives were instrumental in bringing this case to a quick conclusion and the arrest of the suspect within four hours of school authorities being notified,” Giannone said.
Upon learning of the alleged misconduct, the district immediately notified authorities, and also contacted ROP officials to have the teacher removed from campus and placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, Azusa Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Corey James said in a written statement.
“Azusa Unified takes very seriously any allegation about inappropriate relations between a student and teacher, regardless of whether they are an AUSD employee. While this teacher was not a direct employee, AUSD holds this individual and all other guests on our campus to the same high standards to which we hold our own teachers,” James said.
“Our students’ safety is our first priority,” James said. “We are cooperating with law enforcement to facilitate a speedy resolution to this issue. On behalf of our student, AUSD will call for immediate prosecution to the full extent of the law. In the meantime, we are providing counseling for our student.”
Kolos was scheduled to appear for arraignment in Pasadena Superior Court on April 3, officials said.
PHOTO of Eddee Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre, courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department
Police arrested two Glendale men, including one already under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, after they were caught installing a skimming device on a gas pump at a Sierra Madre gas station early Saturday, authorities said.
Edvard Martirosyan, 27, and Aram Manasaryan, 22, were arrested shortly before 3 a.m. outside the Valero gas station, 4 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement. They’re accused of several felony charges for allegedly trying to install the device in order to capture credit card numbers of unsuspecting customers.
The U.S. Secret Service, which has already filed a separate case against Martirosyan, is spearheading the investigation into the two suspects, officials said.
The arrests came after police officers were responded to an alarm at the gas station.
“The officers’ quick response to the alarm call allowed us to catch the suspects in the act,” Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said. “Officers were on scene within one minute of being dispatched to the call and caught the suspects as they were attempting to leave.”
In the suspects’ car, police found other skimming devices, laptop computers, counterfeit credit cards and other tools used to break into gas pumps, officials said.
Martirosyan was out of custody on bond in his pre-existing federal case when he was arrested along with Manasaryan Saturday, officials said. He was arrested in August in connection with an alleged identity theft ring operating skimmers at gas stations in and around the San Fernando Valley.
The incident was the second time in recent weeks police have investigated possible tampering at the gas station.
Police cautioned the public to be wary late last month after learning someone had tried to break in to the gas pumps at the Valero station May 23, police said.
But station owner Edgar Artenyan said an expert had examined the pumps and determined no customer information had been compromised in the crime, which was thwarted by an alarm.
It was unclear if Martirosyan and Manasaryan were also suspected in the May incident.
Officials again asked customers of the station who purchased gas at the pumps using a credit or debit card between May 22 and June 6 to watch their financial accounts for suspicious activity, “just to be on the safe side,” according to the police statement.
“At this point, we cannot be 100 percent certain that some personal information was not captured,”
According to county booking records, Martirosyan and Manasaryan were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail each at the Pasadena Police Department’s jail pending their initial court appearances.
PHOTOS of Edvard Martirosyan (top) and Aram Manasaryan (below) courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department.