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An alarming increase in burglaries in Los Angeles County has put authorities on high alert — and positioned Hollywood’s rich and famous at risk of falling victim to the city’s emboldened criminals.
Over the last six months, reality stars Dorit Kemsley and Christine Quinn were among a number of celebrities whose homes have been ransacked by intruders, most of them armed.
The uptick in violent street robberies and home invasions prompted the Robbery-Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department to issue a community-wide alert in November, which included recommendations to residents on how to react should they find themselves and their belongings a target.
“Victims have been followed from such places like Melrose Avenue, the Jewelry District of Los Angeles, nightclubs, and high-end restaurants in Los Angeles. The target of these robberies has been expensive jewelry, including watches and necklaces, as well as expensive purses. Victims have also been targeted based on the type of vehicle they are driving,” the safety bulletin read.
Christine Quinn, Jacqueline Avant and Dorit Kemsley. (Getty-AP-Getty)
Similarly, celebrities whose jobs on television require a behind-the-scenes look at their lavish properties and assets are at an even greater risk of being targeted. Jeff Zisner, president and CEO of Aegis Security and Investigations, a 300+ member firm specializing in high-end, customer-centric, security, investigation, training and consulting, spoke about the dangers that A-listers are facing as more crimes in Los Angeles occur.
“The unfortunate reality is the more you have in terms of wealth and notoriety, the more you become a target,” Zisner told Fox News Digital. “Once you cross a certain threshold in one of the few different areas, you now have to invest in systems and then people and then plans and processes. The more you can develop your own life and portfolio in terms of wealth and notoriety and visibility into the world, the more you need to invest in securing your world.”
In early March, “Selling Sunset” star Christine Quinn was visibly shaken after armed robbers attempted – and failed – to break into her Los Angeles home. Fortunately, the real estate agent said in a video posted to Instagram that the would-be robbers never made it into her family home because of ultra-strong windows they have. She added that her home security system has “26 4K resolution cameras” so she was able to get a good look at the suspects from the footage.
“I want people to know to take this very seriously. This stuff does happen in LA. It’s happening all the time and I don’t know what would have happened if they would have been able to get through that glass because they would have reached our bedroom, and they would have probably shot us. So, I want you guys to know be really safe out there,” she added.
Christine Quinn is a real estate agent who stars in Netflix’s “Selling Sunset.” (Matt Winkelmeyer/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS)
Quinn is a good example of a star whose home is protected for these types of situations. Zisner explained that residents have more options than a concept of security known in the industry as “gates, guards and guns.”
Zisner’s high-net-worth clients take a more “complex” approach to security, he said.
“The very first thing that a lot of these folks should be doing – and a lot of them do – is buying properties through LLCs and having some sort of anonymity when it comes to the purchase of the asset. So it’s very difficult to target somebody just by virtue of research. The second thing that we do is you look at your perimeter and how your property functions, and you harden your perimeter.”
Reality star Dorit Kemsley’s home was broken into last fall while her children were sleeping. Fortunately, Kemsley and her kids were not physically harmed. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
The expert said celebs typically install things like “gates, walls, fencing toppers, foliage, lighting, camera systems with alerts, alarms, and access control” that make a home more difficult to break into. Security companies like Aegis also pay attention to the physical structure of a person’s home.
The company examines “locks, doors, windows and other vulnerabilities associated with the home that someone could potentially use to get in,” he said. The next step is zeroing in on individual rooms. “Sometimes it makes sense to lock those rooms and have control systems on specific rooms where you may keep valuables.”
Some clients have panic rooms with reinforced structures. “That’s where you go in the event of an emergency,” Zisner said, adding that another key is to look at your insurance.
He also recommends safe social media practices.
“There’s some things you’re not supposed to do,” the expert said. “For example, as a regular person you’re not supposed to post on social media pictures of you on your vacation because people will know that your home will be empty during that time. Some of these folks are posting every day what they’re doing, and if you pay enough attention to someone’s post you can almost figure out the layout of their home and where their stuff is, and what they have.”
Television personality Kim Kardashian made big changes to her social media use after becoming a victim of a 2016 Paris robbery. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo)
Kim Kardashian has been outspoken about how she changed her social media habits after armed robbers forced their way into her rented Paris apartment during fashion week in 2016. The SKIMS mogul was tied up at gunpoint and the criminals took off with $10 million in jewelry.
Zisner, who has worked in security since 2005, highlighted the increase in burglaries in Los Angeles. He said his clientele has increased “several hundred percent” since June 2020.
“So there was a major shift in perception in policing after George Floyd was killed. And at the same time there was a substantial increase in wealth and there has continued to be a substantial increase in wealth particularly for high net-worth individuals as the stock market has been on a bull run for the last couple years,” said the expert.
That, coupled with police being under a microscope and calls for departments to be defunded, has caused a constraint, especially in LA, he said.
Because of this, entertainers, CEOs and social media stars have started hiring more private security.
“Those who have the ability to hire their own private security are now shifting to having their own private team on their property. We’re seeing homeowners association-style organizations where they’re essentially contracting from their own off-duty or retired police officers. They’re not doing it through departments,” Zisner explained.
Jacqueline Avant, left, and Clarence Avant. Jacqueline lost her life when a suspect broke into her Los Angeles-area home and shot her.
The death of Jacqueline Avant, the wife of Grammy award-winning music executive Clarence Avant, was fatally shot in her Los Angeles-area home in December 2021. Avant was home when suspect Aariel Maynor allegedly broke in the Trousdale Estates residence and shot her. He was arrested a short time later in Los Angeles while committing another burglary in which he accidentally shot himself in the foot, police said.
News of Avant’s death triggered a slew of tributes from celebrities and political figures, including former President Bill Clinton.
Crime scene photos of broken window and detectives at the home of Clarence Avant wife’s murder on Dec. 1, 2021. (Mark Satter, APEX / MEGA )
Two months prior, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Dorit Kemsley was held at gunpoint in her Encino Hills mansion in California while her two young children were sleeping. The property was burglarized by three men and an unknown amount of property was stolen. Fortunately, no one was harmed.
Asked what to do in terrifying situations like these, Zisner advised that “virtually everything is replaceable except your life.”
“If the motive of the crime is property, it’s generally best to give them what they want because that’s why they’re there,” he said.
Meanwhile, if a person is in physical harm and their life is being threatened, Zisner said the appropriate response is an operative term called “run-hide-fight.”
Dorit and her husband, PK, have lived in the 9,000-square-foot home since 2019. They purchased it for $6.475M. (Fox11)
“Put distance between you and the bad guy, lock yourself down and get prepared to fight back if you can,” he added.
In January, influencer Florence Mirsky made headlines when three masked armed robbers ransacked her multimillion-dollar mansion in San Fernando Valley. Mirsky, who was not home at the time, was informed of the incident when a housekeeper and a friend who were zip-tied by suspects were able to use the emergency button on the Ring camera system located at the front of the house.
“Consumer-grade security products do a good job by what they’re designed to do,” Zisner said, speaking of products like the Ring home security system. “Alarm systems that are stand-alone are minimally helpful. Alarm systems that are monitored are substantially more helpful because then the alert will go to the monitoring station and the station will dispatch police, but that’s only if they’re being used. There’s a lot of concentric layers to security and physical improvements and systems are certainly a part of that.”
Florence Mirsky is known as the former partner of Grammy-winning producer Scott Storch (right), who has produced music for some of the world’s biggest musicians, including Beyonce, Drake and Lil’ Kim. (Johnny Nunez/Wireimage)
Overall, Zisner said discussions about the targeting of wealthy folks in Los Angeles have increased over the last two years. For those who are hoping to prevent falling victim to incidents such as these, he says the solution is getting ahead of it before it’s too late.
“The unfortunate reality is most of the time I get a phone call after something’s happened and not before. Sometimes clients call before and have me do assessments and staffing and a variety of improvements to mitigate risks in advance, but more often than not it’s after something’s happened that they then take a microscope to it.”