By Matt Liebowitz
Officers from the Northwestern Division of the San Diego Police Department offered guidelines for staying safe during the upcoming holiday season at its Nov. 19 Community Information Forum.
Community Relations Officer Gaylon Sells, along with Lt. Anastasia Smith and new Northwestern Division Capt. Miguel Rosario, took the crowd first through the most recent crime statistics for the division's 42-square-mile area, covered by the division's 36 officers in three shifts.
Sells reported that in the last quarter of the year, residential burglaries have decreased 48 percent compared with the same quarter last year. Commercial burglaries are down 26 percent and larceny is down by 22 percent; property crimes are down 29 percent and motor vehicle crimes have decreased 35 percent.
The decrease, Sells said, is a result of years of hard work and increased enforcement.
Sells then addressed several tips for home safety, particularly during the upcoming holiday season.
He stressed the importance of locking doors and windows when leaving the house, not putting large displays of holiday gifts in view of the windows, and using automatic timers to turn indoor lights on and off when you leave the house to give the appearance that someone is always home.
The holiday safety tips include:
Mark new gifts with the California driver's license number of the recipient.
Break down gift boxes and dispose them in the dumpster to avoid "advertising" new gifts.
When shopping, lock packages in the trunk, lock the car doors and make sure the windows are up.
Don't shop alone in the evening.
Park in well lit areas as close to the store entrances as possible.
Be aware of people in the parking lot. Be on guard, even when parking in a secure garage.
Carry wallets in the front pocket and keep purse flat against the body.
Carry only the charge cards you need, not large sums of cash.
Don't leave anything in view in your car when it's parked.
If you are suspicious, or in danger, Sells said the most pressing thing to do is call the police. "If you have information, please call," he said. "We can never have too much information."
Talk turned briefly to the issue of curfews. Sells reported that Northwestern Division officers last did a curfew sweep on Nov. 13, resulting in the arrest of 16 juveniles, some for marijuana possession.
Sells and Rosario stressed that curfew sweeps are done not to "pick on" minors, but to keep them safe and out of trouble.
"When kids stay out late, they become victims," Rosario said.
Captain Rosario spoke to the overarching need for the police and the public to work in concert to keep everyone safe.
The San Diego Police Department Northwestern Division can be reached at (858) 523-7000. Sells' direct line is (858) 523-7031 and he can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwestern Division serves the neighborhoods of Sorrento Valley, Torrey Preserve, Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley, North City, Torrey Highlands and Black Mountain Ranch.