By Lou Fancher
ORINDA -- In an era of increasingly bold home burglaries, deception has become the new dark.
Just ask Colleen Rovetti, whose family's Overhill Road home was stormed by thieves just after noon on Jan. 23.
"The people who burglarized my home this time aren't concerned about stories in the newspaper or being caught on camera," she says, during a phone interview after the third break-in in three years. "That's why they sent two women to case the place, then wore hoodies."
In the YouTube video she posted in hopes of helping the police to identify the burglars, a dark blue sedan with a paper (possibly fake) license plate backs down the driveway. Two women climb out of a blue sedan, ring the doorbell and wait. Twelve seconds later, they climb back in the car.
They're leaving, right? Wrong. Ten seconds later, two men emerge -- one hooded, the other lifting a coat to shield his profile. The first man holds onto his partner, steadying himself as he fiercely kicks open the door. They disappear inside. After 30 seconds, bursting from the home, they hurl themselves into the car and drive off.
The entire incident, from ringing bell to robbery interrupted, takes two minutes.
Unfortunately for the Rovettis, the first time their home was broken into, the thieves had oodles of time.
"It was 2003 and we were in Hawaii," Rovetti recalls. "It was during the Gray Davis recall effort, and kids were going door-to-door, canvassing for petition signatures. Those kids were in our house for a couple of hours. "
After losing almost everything of value, the Rovettis installed a Sonitrol alarm system and cut back the tall hedge obscuring the front entry.
In April 2011, their close-to-the-freeway, recessed-drive home was under construction. They had another "visit."
"They kicked in our back garage door and stole three computers," Rovetti reports. "They dropped a receipt in our house from Nation's burgers. The police subsequently posted a video from the restaurant."
Nothing came of it, despite the promising pictures.
In September 2012, the burglars used five minutes in the home to steal approximately $25,000 worth of jewelry. The most valuable items belonged to Rovetti's father-in-law. The Rovettis were shocked to discover nothing was insured because their policy did not have individual riders.
The alarm, set to "silent" upon advice Rovetti says she received from the police (that this would link it directly to the police department and un-alerted burglars would be apprehended) had allowed the thieves just enough time to grab and go.
"The police tell me they were here in six minutes," Rovetti says.
The Rovettis then bought a safe and bolted it into the wall. They also installed a surveillance camera.
When the fourth hit happened, her husband had left his championship football ring in a bedside table. The thieves grabbed it while the (now loud) alarm rang.
"Should we put up a cement wall?" she asks. "Short of a moat and sharks, I kind of feel like putting a sign that says, 'You've taken everything: you don't need to come here anymore.' "
Orinda Police Chief Jeffrey Jennings says the Rovettis have been "wonderfully responsive" to suggestions.
"The home is right next to a thoroughfare and, unfortunately, appears to be an attractive target," he replied in an email. "The only other thing they could do with that location is to put a fence around the exterior of their property to include the driveway."
"We're frustrated and cynical," Rovetti admits. "We're kind of scoffing at Orinda as a safe place to live. But I think the police are terrific. They've been responsive: it's just our situation that's unfortunate."
Jennings said Orinda had a 9 percent decrease in residential burglaries from 2011 to 2012. With 0.8 officers per 1,000 residents and a city council determined to keep policing a priority, he said understaffing is not the problem.
"The beauty of the contract with the Office of the Sheriff is that I can request force multipliers with a minimal increase of expense and sometimes with no increase," he said.
Asked why she wants her family's story told, Rovetti says, "If you see something suspicious, you have to call it in. Our neighbor saw the blue car drive up, but because it was brand new, they didn't call. But this morning, we had a person replacing flooring and one of our neighbors called (after seeing a van parked in the drive) and the police came right away."
To see the security video of the burglars who broke into the Rovettis' home go to www.youtube.com and type "OrindaBurglary.avi" into the search function.