By Gaylon Sells
Community Relations officer, Northwestern Division
As the Community Relations Officer for the San Diego Police Department's Northwestern Division (serving the communities of Carmel Valley, Del Mar Heights, Torrey Preserve, North City, Torrey Highlands, and Black Mountain Ranch), I closely monitor the crime statistics and crime trends. A recurring theme is that the overwhelming amount of property crime in Northwestern Division is preventable if only people would take some basic crime prevention measures.
Vehicle burglaries (property stolen from the inside of a locked vehicle) are almost totally preventable. While working patrol I have seen numerous purses, wallets, cell phones, digital cameras, checkbooks, and electronic equipment left in vehicles. I recently was flagged down on a case where an individual had items stolen from his vehicle. He had left his laptop computer and $5,000 in cash in a case on the front seat. It is no wonder criminals commit vehicle burglaries. It takes absolutely no skill to smash out a vehicle window and steal items. Also, many of the vehicles that have items stolen out of them are left unlocked.
Never leave valuables of any kind in your vehicle. Also, never leave bags or containers in your vehicle that a criminal might assume contain valuables. You will end up with a smashed window only to have the criminal realize it was just a bag of dirty clothes. It is bad enough having your cash and electronics stolen, but if a criminal steals your purse or wallet and gets your ID, credit cards, health insurance card or checkbook, then your nightmare has just begun. You will have to cancel all your accounts, obtain new ID, notify the credit bureaus, and hope that you do not become a victim of identity theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft it could take months if not years to make things whole again.
When it comes to homes compared to vehicles you would assume the statistics would show a greater use of basic security measures. Unfortunately, this is not the case. On average in Northwestern Division's area, 60 to 85 percent of residential burglaries (entering a home to commit a theft or felony) involved homes with unlocked or open doors or windows. It is critical that homeowners always lock their doors and windows. If you have an alarm, please use it. The point of entry for most residential burglaries is to the side or rear of the home. Homeowners should also secure windows and sliders on the second floor, as this is also a point of entry for burglars.
Putting locks on your side gates is also a very easy and effective deterrent. Additionally, it is very important to lock the side garage door and the access door from the garage to the house, as these are very common points of entry. If you need to leave a window open for ventilation please use a dowel or other restrictive device to keep the window from being fully opened to where a person could crawl through the window. Additionally, try to keep your blinds or curtains closed at night and when you are not home. If a criminal can see your flat panel TV they will be tempted to try to steal it. Help us help you…. the Police Department can't do it alone!
Taking a few extra minutes to better secure your home and vehicles might save you much grief down the road. The good news is that compared to other areas in San Diego the communities in Northwestern Division have a much lower crime rate. Better security measures can only improve these statistics. If you would like more information on crime prevention please -email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have numerous crime prevention materials that I would be more than happy to e-mail you.