Although they are calling it a long shot, detectives with the Scottsdale Police Department have a lead in the rock burglar case.
The department released two photos Monday of a man they say could be the rock burglar, who police believe has been breaking into Paradise Valley, Scottsdale and other luxury Valley homes for the past 12 years. The man in the photos was captured on a surveillance camera in Bel Air, Calif., where one or more burglars has hit about 40 homes in the past couple of years.
The Los Angeles Police Department describes the burglar as a white male with grayish hair, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, between the ages of 40 and 50. In the photos, the burglar is wearing a black suit, a black shirt and a black baseball cap, and is carrying a black satchel.
The Bel Air burglar could be the same as the rock burglar, said Sam Bailey, a detective with the Scottsdale Police Department.
"It’s a long shot," Bailey said. "People say, ‘Is this the rock burglar?’ But we don’t know because we don’t know what the rock burglar looks like."
Bailey said an expensive watch Scottsdale detectives believed to be stolen from an owner in Bel Air formed the link between the two burglars. Although the watch turned out to not be stolen, Bailey said detectives still consider the Bel Air and rock burglar connection a possibility.
"When detectives here talked to detectives there, they found the characteristics are very similar to the way the rock burglar operates in Arizona," Bailey said. "Suffice it to say, there are enough similarities to make our detectives believe there might be a connection." Both burglars are believed to be white males, enter homes while the owners are away and target jewelry and money in master bedrooms. However, there are differences between the two.
Unlike the rock burglar —who breaks windows using rocks, flowerpots or other heavy objects he finds in homeowners’ back yards — the Bel Air burglar typically enters by prying rear doors open, said Lt. Otis Dobine, who is in charge of the Hillside Burglary Task Force with Los Angeles police.
Dobine said Monday the Bel Air burglar also differs from the rock burglar in that he enters homes in the morning, while the rock burglar usually strikes on weekend nights.
But Bailey said detectives aren’t taking chances.
The rock burglar has hit more than 300 homes, including the home of Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Steve Finley, who lost more than $65,000 in property on Sept. 23, 2002.
The closest police came to catching the thief was in 1994, when two Paradise Valley police officers approached a man who appeared to be casing a house late at night. The man, later believed to be the rock burglar, escaped on foot.
To report any information on the rock burglar, call Scottsdale police at (480) 312-5000.