When Frank and Dorothy Barna left Sun City June 4 for a vacation, they thought they would be gone for a couple of months, get away from the heat, and come back in September when the weather cooled down. Those plans were rendered moot Aug. 12, when a friend called asking about their home.
“Our neighbor behind us called and asked us, 'how is your house?’” Frank said. “She said her house had been robbed and she wanted to know if ours was, too. So we called the person taking care of our home to go and check, and she told us our home had been broken into, as well.”
The Barna’s returned home the next day to find a crowbar on the ground outside their back door. Their home had been “ransacked.” Their car was stolen, along with many other items. All their drawers had been pulled open and their television sets were gone, as were Frank’s most prized possessions.
“All of my sports memorabilia, signed items that I had collected over a 70 year period, were all gone,” Frank said. “We can put our home back together, but I’ll never be able to replace those items.”
Dorothy said she can at least be thankful that she and Frank did not get hit as badly as their neighbors.
“Whoever did this apparently lived out of the house behind us for a couple days,” Dorothy said. “There were red wine stains on the carpet. The place was trashed.”
Frank said they called the Sun City Sheriff’s Posse, and a Sheriff’s deputy came out to look around. Their car was found two days later. So far, Frank said he has not heard of any progress in catching the culprit and he does not have much hope that there will be any.
“There have been so many burglaries around here, and no one has been caught yet,” Frank said.
Last month, however, a burglar was caught. Authorities arrested Polo Vargas, 39, in connection with a string of robberies in Sun City West. As of now, there is no evidence linking Vargas to any burglaries in Sun City.
Lieutenant Chad Brachman, who works for the MCSO out of their District III office in the West Valley, said catching burglary suspects can be difficult, though not always as difficult as it might seem.
“They can be difficult to pinpoint quickly without sufficient evidence,” Brachman said. “Sometimes, like in the Vargas case, we get enough evidence not only to find a suspect, but to link that suspect to other crimes. The Vargas case is a classic example of how quickly we can move on these guys with just a bit of evidence to find them.”
Last week, there were eight robberies reported in Sun City and two in Sun City West. Frank said he has a feeling there are even more than that.
“I’ve talked to many of our neighbors around here, and I guarantee you there are more robberies than have been reported,” Frank said.
As a result of those talks, Frank and Dorothy recently participated in a community meeting, where they said homeowners discussed ways to better protect themselves.
“We can’t rely on anybody else to help us, so we have to start depending on each other,” Dorothy said. “We need to be more aware of what is going on around us.”
In retrospect, Frank said there were several things he would have done differently.
Already, he said he has put in newer, more secure doors, motion-sensing flood lights and will soon install alarms on the door. Frank said one of the more effective precautions to take is to notify neighbors about any trips.
“People need to tell their neighbors on both sides, across the street and behind them if they are going to leave town,” Frank said. “And make sure they know who to look for if you are going to have anyone stop by the house to pick up mail or something.”
Frank said he feels “violated,” and he hopes the community, the police and the media will do more to address the problem.
“We need to put pressure on the burglars,” Frank said. “We need more coverage, every day, until these people are caught and the burglaries stop. It’s up to us.”