Homeless outreach group burglarized in Lake Elsinore, $7,000 loss reported

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Burglars made off with $7,000 worth of equipment and donated items from the Social Work Action Group's office in Lake Elsinore on Monday. Photo courtesy of Adrian Varela

Staff at a local homeless outreach group encountered an unwelcome surprise when staff opened up their office earlier this week.

Burglars made off with $7,000 worth of equipment and donated items from the Social Work Action Group’s office northeastern Lake Elsinore early Monday.

The organization, which goes by the abbreviation SWAG, works provides various homeless outreach services in the Inland Empire. The city of Lake Elsinore recently approved an agreement with SWAG to fund housing and help get people experiencing homelessness off the streets using a $1.5 million grant from California’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

Adrian Varela, outreach coordinator at SWAG, said workers at a neighboring business first noticed around 6:15 a.m. that someone had smashed the glass front door to the organization’s office on Highway 74 near Crater Drive

. Those workers contacted management at the group, which goes by the abbreviation SWAG.

After reviewing security camera footage, SWAG employees found that the office had been broken into sometime around 3:30 a.m. Monday.

An image of a security video from the Social Work Action Group’s office in Lake Elsinore shows the suspects in Monday’s burglary. Photo courtesy of Adrian Varela.

Varela said the suspected burglars were able to be seen on the security footage.

“Two males and a female,” Varela said. “(They were) casing the parking lot, casing the surrounding businesses. They spent about 12 to 15 minutes prior to going in just looking around to see where they were gonna go in.”

The items the burglars took included donated items like hygiene kits, brand new socks and underwear from a recent event at Lakeside High School and a lock box with $2,000 worth of gift cards for fast food, as well as medical supplies used by the organization’s encampment response team and tools that some of SWAG’s employees were using to work on a retired ambulance they had planned to wrap in the company’s colors.

“It really feels like we’re starting back at day one,” Varela said of the losses. He said the sheriff’s department responded on Monday to search the crime scene and gather evidence.

“They haven’t said anything yet, it’s still pretty fresh, Varela said. “The good thing is that we work very closely with (the sheriff’s department).”

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the burglary, but no suspects are yet in custody, sheriff’s spokesperson Robyn Flores confirmed.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.