Burglars target small businesses in Los Osos

mfountain@thetribunenews.comJanuary 15, 2014 

“Los Osos is such a sweet place to live, you just never think about something like this happening to you,” said Ray Ramirez as he shuffled around a few lonely bottles of hairspray on the shelves in front of his salon’s cash register.

Ramirez, who has owned Hair Lines Beauty Center in Los Osos for 17 years, and two employees busied themselves on Monday morning, straightening downed bottles of beauty products and sweeping debris off the floor.

Businesses at the Bay Osos Village Center on the 1000 block of Los Osos Valley Road are keeping their guard up following a brazen burglary at the salon over the weekend. According to Ramirez and the Sheriff’s Office, at some point Saturday night, an unknown number of burglars broke into the business and stole what Ramirez estimated to be between $12,000 to $15,000 in cash from the register and products.

“They wiped out everything. Everything we could use they took,” Ramirez said, adding that it appeared the perpetrators knew what they were looking for.

Ramirez said the burglars entered the business through a crawl space via the roof, which leads to an attic shared by the salon and its neighbors. Not only did the suspects pilfer the cash register and both high- and lower-end beauty and hair products on the shelves, but they also drilled through locks on the stylists’ cabinets, taking such personal things as a camera, a Kindle, and other items, he said.

“This is expensive stuff,” Ramirez said, jokingly noting that it’s as if the thieves are starting their own salon.

The owner said the suspects even took toilet paper and paper towels, and left behind evidence that they even took a break to smoke cigarettes and eat some of the snacks kept in the building. Before leaving, he said, the thieves sprayed down surfaces with a fire extinguisher and left rubber gloves in the toilet.

“They certainly knew what they were doing,” Ramirez said.

However, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla, a footprint was located on a clear surface that may lead to identifying a suspect, or at least help authorities determine if the salon burglary is connected to any other burglary in the area.

Approximately two weeks ago, a burglary with the same M.O. occurred at the nearby Los Osos Smoke Shop, an employee at the shop confirmed. Cipolla said the burglars also attempted to break into the salon’s next-door neighbor, H&R Block, by knocking a 1-foot-by-1-foot hole in the wall shared by the two businesses, but for an unknown reason the attempt was abandoned. Cipolla said the investigation remains ongoing.

Ramirez, meanwhile, said a meeting with an insurance investigator is scheduled for Thursday.

What’s troubling for employees like Heather Babcock is that the burglars stole the employees’ personal products — those they have accumulated for use on their clients.

Babcock, the salon’s manicurist, estimated that the thieves stole about $3,000 worth of her products, which she purchased with her own money and needs to do her job.

“We’re self-employed people. We’ve got to work,” Babcock said before standing up to greet a customer.

Ramirez said he wanted to make clear that the shop will remain open for business.

“They took people’s livelihoods,” Ramirez said. “I haven’t been able to sleep for two days. Now the anger’s finally setting in.”

He added: “Obviously we’re really hoping they catch these guys.”

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