SAN BERNARDINO - The Police Department showed it was serious about going after the people who killed three elderly women during home-invasion robberies by announcing $30,000 in rewards for each case in January.

And police detectives continue to shine a light on home-invasion robberies and burglaries targeting senior citizens. Six cases, including one being investigated by the Sheriff's Department, were reported in January alone.

But in the Police Department's efforts to crack down on the problem, a belief has arisen that criminals are focusing on the elderly.

"That perception has evolved recently, that the elderly are being targeted," Police Chief Robert Handy said Friday. "We don't believe that that is necessarily true.

San Bernardino home invasion robbery timeline

  • Jan. 28: A teen boy and girl beat and robbed a 74-year-old man in the 2300 block of North Windsor Avenue. The pair were arrested two days later.
  • Jan. 25: A wheelchair-bound elderly woman woke up to find two men ransacking her home in the 1400 block of North Flores Street. The men fled the home after the woman s roommate startled them.
  • Jan. 24: Lonzell Outlaw, 18, got into a home in the 200 block of West Seventh Street. Outlaw demanded valuables from a 78-year-old woman living at the home and beat the victim s 38-year-old son. Outlaw and a 17-year-old San Bernardino boy were arrested Wednesday.
  • Jan. 20: A 77-year-old woman was robbed at gunpoint in her home in the 3700 block of North Mayfield Avenue.
  • Jan. 19: A robber beat an 84-year-old woman and her 95-year-old husband during a home invasion robbery in the 900 block of West 40th Street. The thief fled with cash, an antique pistol and other valuables.
  • Jan. 18: A man climbed into a home in the 1900 block of West Ash Street while an elderly resident was asleep. The burglar fled when the resident awoke, leaving property behind.
  • November 2012: At least one robber got into the home of Mary Beth Blaskey, 76, in the 3000 block of Fremontia Drive, killed her and ransacked the residence. Police have posted $30,000 in rewards in the case.
  • "

    Handy said residents and city officials have been calling him almost daily, asking what he is doing about the crimes. Officers arrested three people this week, including a teen boy and girl who allegedly beat and robbed a 74-year-old man in the 2300 block of North Windsor Avenue, and an 18-year-old man who allegedly robbed a 78-year-old woman in the 200 block of West Seventh Street.

    The frequent calls from panicked residents prompted Handy to take a closer look at the cases.

    He said he and other officers discovered that since November, 11 percent of the city's robbery and burglary cases involved victims at least 60 years old. The same age group makes up about 18 percent of the city's population, showing that the crimes are not disproportionate to the population.

    "It's unfortunate that anyone is victimized in our community - children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable - but we don't believe there is a relationship between the crimes, and we don't believe there is any spike involving the elderly," he said.

    He said hasn't had a chance to compare numbers of crimes against the elderly in previous years.

    Police Sgt. Gary Robertson said police, so far, have not been able to connect the January home invasions to the November death of Mary Beth Blaskey, 76, who was killed by at least one robber who ransacked her residence and fled in her vehicle.

    "There's nothing to indicate that whoever is doing this is connected to Mary Beth Blaskey's case," Robertson said.

    Handy emphasized that he still considers the crimes serious and that seniors should do everything they can to protect themselves and their homes.

    He said he's been working with Kevin Hawkins, director of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services, to organize a series of meetings at senior centers to educate the elderly on safety.

    He also encouraged residents to report crimes, no matter how minor. Handy said a woman recently contacted him because a man got onto her mother's property, but because the man did not enter the house, she didn't report it.

    With education and vigilance, Handy says seniors will have a better chance of not becoming victims.

    "Criminals are opportunists and they're out looking for opportunities," he said. "They're looking for the path of least resistance, so they're looking for a window or a door that is unlocked."


    Reach Melissa via email or call her at 909-386-3878.
    Get the latest crime and public safety news on Twitter @IECrime.