By Rob LeDonne
Home burglaries are always a concern for community residents, but in recent months a string of brazen midday robberies have left many residents on edge and wondering what to do. As a result, a variety of locally organized neighborhood watches are popping up around the area, and the county sheriff’s office is ramping up patrols and offering a variety of services to combat crime this summer.
Jackie Stockholm, a crime prevention specialist for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department in Encinitas, is fully aware of the problem. What authorities have found, she explained, is that “these are crimes of opportunity. Burglars know when you’ll be leaving for work or school,” and that’s when they take advantage. Stockholm explained that even though crime is an issue year-round, summertime in North County is a more vulnerable season than any other.
“Whenever there’s an increase in population, you’re going to see an increase in property crimes,” Stockholm said. “Population density and property crimes have a biologic relationship. So when we have events like the fair and races, you’re going to see the same trend.”
In addition, the summertime is also an exodus for many who vacation for weeks at a time, leaving their homes vulnerable. Quiet, dimly lit and empty houses on low traffic blocks are perfect targets and are most at risk.
As a result, the Sheriff’s Department has set up a program that offers free home residence checks for people going away for an extended period of time.
“A lot of people are surprised and very pleased when they find out about it,” explained Stockholm who notes that a member of the Senior Volunteer Patrol will visit vacant houses daily to make sure delivery items don’t pile up, and the home is secure. “It’s a vacation check request. Residents can fill out a form, tell us when they’re going to be out of town, and give us any pertinent information like cars that should be in the driveway and if there’s an alarm system... The patrol is excellent; they’re the best resource we have. Plus, all of the information is private.”
Stockholm also notes that residents can always request extra patrols “for certain neighborhoods that have an increase in criminal activity. People can call us if they see strange people during a certain time of day. Usually residents have a pretty good idea of who lives or hangs out in their neighborhood on a regular basis,” Stockholm said. “If there’s a car idling for awhile that doesn’t look right,” is just one sign a home may be being cased.
Stockholm also advises residents to never open their door for solicitors, another hallmark of a future robbery. “We warn people against doing so. If people think their home is about to be robbed, or is being surveyed, we always tell people to try to call us as soon as possible. Don’t confront or engage the person, just get as much information as possible; like their description, a model of their car, or a license plate number.”
Lastly, Stockholm says that the website CrimeMapping.com is also a good resource to see if your neighborhood is close in proximity to recent crimes. “You can plug in your address and see all of the incidents that have been reported.”
Overall, Stockholm advises residents to be vigilant and practice common sense. Turn on alarms, make sure all doors and windows are shut and locked. Temporarily cancel deliveries when out of town. Lock all cars and don’t leave valuables inside or visible.
“Some of the cases that we’re seeing is that people are leaving their house with the windows and doors unlocked,” she explained. “Even if there’s a screen, you have to at least lock your doors and windows.”
To find a Vacation Check form, check out the San Diego Sheriff Department’s home on the web: www.sdsheriff.net. To report suspicious activity, call the Department’s Communications Center at (858) 525-5200. For those living in the City of San Diego police district, report suspicious activity to (858) 484-3154. For all emergencies, call 911.
You can get a map that shows the hundred-block location of 15 types of crimes in the past 180 days from www.crimemapping.com. First click on California and then on San Diego Police for Del Mar Heights, Carmel Valley, North City, and Torrey Highlands locations, or San Diego County Sheriff for Del Mar and Solana Beach locations. Then select from up to 15 types of crimes, a date range, and enter an address. And then click on Search to get a map and select a search radius. You can also generate a report that lists all the mapped crimes.
And for crime prevention tips and other information on safety and security, go to the Crime Prevention and Education section of the San Diego Police Department’s website at www.sandiego.gov/police.