If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times: don’t be a victim. But it seems no matter how many times people are reminded not to leave their valuables in plain sight, the message goes in one ear and out the other. It’s the best DIY in crime prevention – protect your stuff and it won’t get stolen.
Here’s an update from the folks on the front line:
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Crime Prevention Unit has identified a recent trend in burglaries related to theft of valuables left in plain view inside vehicles.
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Although property related crimes are down more than 15% in 2011, in comparison to the same time period in 2010, sheriff’s officials are asking for the public's’ help in reducing them even further.
As part of our crime analysis and proactive approach to reducing crime, the Crime Prevention Unit has documented and is tracking more than 300 vehicle burglaries which occurred from January to May 2011.
In each of these incidents the perpetrators entered the vehicles by breaking one of the windows or otherwise forcing their way into the car. These incidents occurred primarily in parking lots at local gyms, parks, markets, and even on streets in residential neighborhoods.
Preliminary numbers indicate that these incidents have resulted in 35% of all property crimes for the entire Santa Clarita Valley, totaling more than $300,000 dollars in estimated property loss at more than $1,000 per case, not to mention the threat of identity theft and credit card use when wallets and purses are stolen.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station has recently conducted a number of covert operations at several local businesses and deputies have observed countless Santa Clarita residents setting themselves up to become easy targets of property crimes.
Deputies have looked on as gym goers park their car then openly lift their purses from the front to the back seat of the car and then cover the purse with an article of clothing. They then proceed into the gym without their belongings, leaving the criminal who is watching them a clear indicator that they will be gone for some time and their purse is left in the car.
Moments later, their window is broken, purse is gone, and they are left with the unfortunate task of vehicle repair, cancelling credit cards, and trying to get their personal and financial affairs back in order. Fortunately the residents observed during the sheriff’s operations were not victimized because the deputies were right there watching, but others have not been so lucky.
In addition to these operations, directed patrols, high visibility of deputy personnel, addition of security and camera monitoring systems, and crime prevention work in partnership with local business owners, has had an impact on reducing the number of victims to this type of crime, but the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station would like to virtually eliminate the easy opportunity for would-be criminals in our community, or at a minimum make it more difficult on these thieves.
We can make a difference by working together to ensure valuable items, such as purses, wallets, iPhones, GPS systems, and computers, are not left inside unattended vehicles. As we mentioned, the victims primarily targeted are those leaving these types of valuable items visible in the interior compartment of the car. We have not seen one case this year where valuables were stolen from the trunk of a vehicle. The trunk is not optimal, but will help serve as a deterrent.
Please take precautions to secure your items prior to arriving at your destination or by taking them with you after you park. Make sure your vehicles are locked and parked in a well-lit area if it is going to be dark when you leave or return to your vehicle. Be cognizant of suspicious people sitting parked in their vehicles or driving around the parking lots with no apparent purpose, for example, traversing several parking lot rows while passing available parking spaces. Immediately report all suspicious activities to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at (661) 255-1121 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Help us stop this crime of opportunity. Do not allow yourselves to be victimized. We must all work together to strengthen our partnership, avoid becoming easy targets of these property crimes, and send a "Not in Santa Clarita" message.
Here is some more information to help you help us --
The recent incidents of theft all seem to share several common factors:
• They are generally occurring in the parking lots of local gyms during morning or evening peak workout hours.
• They are occurring when residents leave electronic items, purses, wallets or other items of value in plain view inside their parked car.
• Many of the vehicles in these recent incidents occurred after the window was smashed when the criminal opportunist apparently looked inside and saw valuable items or watched the victim park their car and leave the valuables.
Help us help you by taking a few simple precautions:
• Call the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, (661) 255-1121, at the first sign of anyone casing vehicles, looking into vehicles or loitering between or around them.
• Call 9-1-1 if you see anyone tampering with automobiles.
• Lock your car doors.
• Remove garage door openers and all items of value, such as GPS devices, cell phones, computers, purses, charging cables, and I-Pods if the vehicle will be left in a parking lot, driveway or on the roadway.
• At the very least, the items should be placed out of view prior to your trip to your destination or, preferably, locked in the trunk prior to arrival if possible.
• Do not carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet. Memorize your number.
The Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station is urging all residents to follow these simple preventative measures at any hour of the day or night, even if their car is going to be parked in a public area that seems to be well populated and safe. Santa Clarita Sheriffs have additional enforcement operations planned in the coming days and weeks.
Working together we can make the difference. For questions or additional information, please contact Sergeant Darren Harris of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Crime Prevention Unit at (661) 799-5814 or Crime Prevention Zone Leader Deputy Regina Yost at (661) 799-5164.
The investigations are ongoing and there is no further information available at this time.
If You See Something, Say Something! Anyone with information about a local crime is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Clarita Valley Station at (661) 255-1121.
If you prefer to provide information ANONYMOUSLY, you can call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the web site http://lacrimestoppers.org .