A rash of thefts, some leading to ID thefts but most leading to pawn shop visits, have deputies looking to send a simple message: “If you make your valuables available, someone’s going to get them.”
Deputy Regina Yost, who supervises the Crime Prevention Unit’s Valencia zone, said she feels like “a broken record,” because she has to keep repeating about not becoming a victim.
Each of the CPU’s five zone leaders put out such a report that detail Part-1 crimes, a designation created by the FBI in order to classify crimes that range anywhere from petty theft to rape or murder.
Nearly all of the incidents are thefts or burglaries, and many of those are preventable, she said. The hope is to drive down crime by making people aware of the risks they may be taking with their valuables.
“I get a lot of positive feedback where people say, ‘Thank you for reporting that, I wasn’t aware there’s really been a problem in my neighborhood,’” Yost said.
“But I think most of the people either don’t care enough or they think it’s safe so they don’t worry about it,” Yost said, mentioning an afternoon burglary incident from the prior week.
It happened between 9 a.m. and noon in well-to-do Valencia neighborhood. A woman parked her car in her garage but left the garage unlocked.
A thief walked into the garage, stole the woman’s purse with credit cards and cash and then walked away unnoticed during the middle of the day.
These so-called crimes of opportunity account for about 60 percent of the incidents Yost handles, she said.
“Right now, we have a big issue with pawning,” Yost said. “IPads and purses and (valuables) — that’s all pawnable,” she said.
“I think the biggest thing is iPods and iPhones — if a person sees a charger cord hanging from any part of a vehicle, they assume an item is connected to it,” she mentioning expensive bags for equipment or briefcases.
Based on the reports she sees, there are anywhere from 18 to 30 Part-1 crimes in her zone, Yost said. There are anywhere from four to 10 burglary incidents each week, and most are preventable.
“I put the same caution in my report every week,” Yost said. “I think a lot of people aren’t realizing what’s going on in their neighborhood. We want people to know there are programs available,” she said, mentioning the reports, Tweets and other outreach efforts the Sheriff’s Station has created.
Every week, her Nixle report contains the following caution:
“Do not become a victim! Please do not leave valuables unattended or visible in your vehicles. Secure items in locked trunks or take personal belongings with you when you exit your vehicle. If possible, park in well-lit areas.”
Another alarming trend for deputies is when unlocked garages are broken into, Yost said.
In many cases, a homeowner will close a garage door, but leave the side door unlocked, which makes for an easy target for thieves.
The fact that people have valuables on their property might be creating a “false sense of security,” Yost said.
People also need to make sure they don’t leave anything visible in their car when they walk away from it, regardless of if the car’s alarmed.
Not only is the stuff difficult to recover, but most “smash-and-grab” incidents don’t leave fingerprints behind for deputies to track down.
“There’s only been maybe a few cases where there was a car alarm that went off, where the person said they came out and didn’t see anything,” Yost said
“Could that scare somebody off? Maybe,” she said. “But if you’re locking your car and securing valuable items then you’re much less likely to becomes victim.”