Car break-ins, home security topics of La Jolla safety forum

La Jollans were told a thinly stretched, underfunded police force is doing all it can to combat crime, half of which involves vehicles, at a community safety forum at La Jolla Rec Center Feb. 15.

Council President Scott Peters sponsored the forum, which was held in the wake of the Feb. 6 burglary at gunpoint of the household of philanthropist Ernest Rady in La Jolla Shores, as well as recent break-ins at Cold Stone Creamery in the Village and A Better Deal tuxedo shop in Bird Rock.

The public forum included a visit by Mayor Jerry Sanders, former chief of San Diego police, plus presentations by Northern Division Police Capt. Boyd Long and Police Lt. Brian Ahearn, who covers La Jolla.

It's unnerving," commented Peters, during opening remarks, about the recent spate of crime in La Jolla. "Police are going to tell us about specific crime trends, good or bad, in La Jolla and a few things about how we can keep our homes and our families more safe."

Peters noted the City Council is grappling with the problem of underpaid police officers in San Diego. "This is the time of year when labor negotiations start," he said. "The mayor is doing that with police officers right now. We're sympathetic to that. We don't have a lot of money to spend in our city. But we do set priorities in our city, and public safety is our number one priority."

During his presentation on La Jolla crime, Long pointed to a map of La Jolla with bright red markings indicating heavy concentrations of car break-ins and other crimes. "Between 2000 and 2005, violent crime in your community fell by crime statistics," said Long. "However, the one area that was up was crimes against property. That crime involves a significant amount of vehicles, cars parked out on the street, or in the driveway. That represents almost 50 percent of all the crime that happens in La Jolla, someone breaking into your car, whether it's parked on the driveway or on the street in front of your house. That's a significant number, and that's a number you can help us reduce."

Long gave a rundown of the high-profile armed burglary of the Rady residence. He then offered a number of common-sense tips telling people how they can make their parked vehicles less attractive to opportunistic thieves. For example, he said, people should always make sure their windows are closed and their doors are locked, even when they're home. He added burglars are looking for residences with easy access.

If people notice a suspicious car, or a suspicious person in their neighborhood, someone or something that seems out of place, Long urges them to call the police and report it. He said such calls will be taken seriously, though response times will vary due to circumstances. "If there's officers available," said Long, "we'll move them into the area to find out why that person's there, find out if they should be there."

"La Jolla Shores and downtown La Jolla business district are hot areas to have your car burglarized," said Long, who added there are also easy things to do to remove the temptation for thieves to break into parked vehicles.

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