Thousand Oaks Police Department Reminder to Be Aware of Suspicious Persons

Here is the latest "City Watch" alert from Senior Deputy Tim Lohman of the Thousand Oaks Police Department. If you would like these updates directly from via email, click here for more information.

The press release at the bottom of this post is an incident that occurred at The Oaks and Janss malls. This incident could have ended tragically for both women, but fortunately the suspect was apprehended, putting an end to his reign of terror.

This is a reminder to all residents be conscious of suspicious persons and to be aware of your surroundings. The following tips are provided to help keep you safe:

Be alert of your surroundings.

Look for vehicles that may have followed you into the parking lot. Make several turns in a parking lot to verify this.

If you believe you are being followed, do not get out of your vehicle. Doors should be locked.

Stay in a well-traveled and well-lit area. Call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or go to a convenience store, service station, etc., and call 9-1-1.

Look for strangers or suspicious persons sitting in vehicles, standing or walking in the parking lot that appear to be watching you.

Park as close to your destination as possible. Do not park near shrubbery, large vehicles, dumpsters, or anything that blocks your view or provides a place for someone to hide.

Remember where you parked so you do not spend a lot of time walking around the parking lot when you are ready to leave.

If the parking lot has area identifiers, take note of that area where you parked.

If it is night, park in a well-lit and well-traveled area. Do not park in an isolated area.

Look around your vehicle before you get out. Pay attention to the surroundings and any suspicious activity. 

Before leaving your vehicle, make sure ALL the doors are locked and that ALL the windows are rolled all the way up.

If possible, wait for other people to walk to your destination with you before you exit your vehicle.

Walking To Your Vehicle

If you are working after dark, try to move your vehicle closer to the building before it gets dark.

If you frequently work at night, consider a security system for your vehicle. Install one with a panic button which will sound either the horn or a siren. Also, consider carrying a whistle, mace or pepper spray.

If you have to work late, notify someone and give them a phone number where you can be reached. Let them know how late you will be working.

Do not overload yourself with packages, bags etc.

Walk to your vehicle in a group with other employees or customers. If you find you have to walk to your vehicle alone, try to get a co-worker that is still working to walk with you. If there is security available, call security and ask for an escort.

Do not walk with your head down. Look around you and be observant. Assert body language that says that you are in control and will cause an uproar if bothered.

Have your vehicle keys out and hold them firmly in your hand as you exit the building(s), so you will not have to look for them when you reach your vehicle. Make sure your house keys are separate from your vehicle keys.

If you are approached by a suspicious person in the parking lot, go back inside quickly and call the police. If you are approached and grabbed, throw your keys as far as possible and begin screaming.

Never get into a vehicle with a stranger, even if he has a weapon. Most attackers do not want to hurt you, they just want you to comply.  Run the opposite way the car is facing and scream, the attacker will usually leave the area.

Do not carry your purse by your side. Carry it close to your body, preferably in front. If someone grabs your purse, let go of it, rather than try to hold on to it.

If you are approached by a suspicious vehicle, walk or run the opposite direction the vehicle is headed and go back inside. Do not run around the parking lot.

If you are approached, get a description of the person(s). Note their appearance, clothing, vehicle and registration.  Look them in the face.  This acts to deter any activity, and it aids in identification.

If you think you are being followed, walk to a lighted area, into a store, or a crowded place. Then call the police or have someone call for you.

Walk only in main areas.  Do not take short cuts, and do not walk near shrubbery, dumpsters, or other areas where someone could hide.

Check inside your vehicle when you open the door before you get inside.

Lock all the doors as soon as you get inside the vehicle.

If you are approached by a suspicious person once you are inside your vehicle, do not roll down your window and do not unlock or open a door.  Honk the horn and drive away if possible.

If someone tries to tell you that there is something wrong with your vehicle do not stop to talk to them.  Drive to a safe area, such as a convenience store or service station to check on the vehicle.

If you think you are being followed when you leave the parking lot, stay in a lighted and well-traveled area  Do not drive in an isolated area. Go to a convenience store, service station or business and call the police.  

Thousand Oaks Deputies Arrest Kidnapping/Attempted Carjacking/Attempted Robbery Suspect

On March 30, 2013 at approximately 7:15 PM, City of Thousand Oaks Patrol Deputies responded to the Janss Mall parking structure and contacted a female victim who was reporting an attempted robbery.  The female victim stated she was sitting in her vehicle in the Janss Mall parking structure when a male suspect, S-Banuelos, attempted to open the victim’s car door.  Upon finding the door locked, the suspect, S-Banuelos, then reached into the open drivers side window and grabbed the victim by her hair.  S-Banuelos then released his hold of the victim’s hair and began reaching into the vehicle with both arms.  S-Banuelos grabbed the victim in the upper torso and abdomen area.  The victim screamed, and the suspect fled the area on a red mountain bike.

Suspect Sergio Banuelos of Thousand Oaks, 19 (Photo from Ventura County Sheriff's Office)On March 30, 2013, at approximately 8:00 PM, City of Thousand Oaks Patrol Deputies responded to the Thousand Oaks Mall parking structure and contacted a female victim who was reporting a battery.  The female victim stated she was walking to her vehicle that was parked in the parking structure when a male suspect, S-Banuelos, grabbed the victim from behind.  The victim was walking up a set of stairs when S-Banuelos approached her from behind, grabbed the victim around the waist, and pulled the victim backwards toward him.  The victim screamed, struggled with the suspect and broke free.  The suspect fled the area on a red mountain bike. 

After hearing the suspect description from the first crime, the City of Thousand Oaks Special Enforcement Unit began assisting the Patrol units by searching the surrounding areas for the suspect.  At approximately 10:20 PM, members of the Special Enforcement Unit located the suspect bicycle and then the suspect in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 800 block of Warwick Avenue.  The suspect was detained.  Patrol deputies responded to the apartment complex with the two victims.  Both victims positively identified the suspect. 

Both the Janss Mall and Oaks Mall parking structures have video surveillance monitoring the parking structures.  The suspect was captured on both video surveillance systems. 

During the investigation, a third victim approached the Oaks Mall's Security to report a possible theft from her vehicle.  The Oaks Mall Security personnel reviewed the video surveillance where the victim’s vehicle was parked and observed Banuelos in the area where the victim’s vehicle was parked.   

Banuelos was arrested for attempted robbery, attempted carjacking, and kidnapping.  Banuelos was booked into the East County Jail and is being held on $100,000 bail.