Police discuss armed robberies in La Jolla, changes in department

San Diego Police have been making the rounds to discuss changes in the department, as well as to update residents on criminal activity. In La Jolla, officers stopped by the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) during its Oct. 12 meeting, and gave a full presentation to the La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) during its Oct. 13 meeting. 

When scheduling the meeting, Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache said the intention was to thank Northern Division Mark Hanten for his service to the community, but unbeknown to the committee, Hanten was transferred to another department. In his stead, Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser and Lt. Robert Daun spoke about recent crime activity, the Halloween season, and Northern Division’s new leadership. 

“I would have liked to have introduced Captain Hanten tonight, but at the police department, one of the constants is change. We just had a round of transfers and Captain Hanten will be moving to Northwestern Division effective Oct. 22 and Captain Stephanie Rose from Northwestern Division will be our new captain at Northern Division,” Daun said. “Captain Rose has been a captain for many years ... she has lots of experience.” 

At the LJSA meeting, Hesselgesser said, “as soon as we get her acclimated, will bring her to one of the meetings and introduce her. I think it’s happening in the next couple of weeks.” Rose reportedly had a prior commitment the night of the Town Council meeting and was not able to attend. 

Recent armed robberies 

Officer Hesselgesser updated attendees on two recent armed robberies in La Jolla. As reported on nextdoor.com (by Hesselgesser), on Oct. 11, a 60-year-old man had just returned home and pulled his vehicle into his garage around 9 p.m. on the 1300 block Virginia Way. Three men wearing ski masks and dark clothing — two of them armed with handguns — approached the man in his garage and demanded property. The victim surrendered his watch, cell phone and briefcase. The suspects fled on foot. One of the males holding a weapon was described as approximately 6 feet tall. 

Police are investigating whether either of these incidences are related to robberies that took place that same day in Ocean Beach and Sunset Cliffs. 

In a separate incident, at 8 a.m. Oct. 12 on the short La Jolla Shores street of Avenida Alamar, a La Jolla couple was robbed at gunpoint by two men who broke into their house through an open window. When the male victim was confronted by the two suspects, he observed one of them holding a gun. Undisclosed items were taken during the robbery, and the suspects are believed to be driving a blue or purple 1990s Honda. 

Hesselgesser noted in the nextdoor.com report, “It is unknown if any or all of these robberies were committed by the same suspects. This is an ongoing investigation being (handled) by SDPD Robbery Division. If you have any information or surveillance photos or video that you think is relevant … call (619) 531-2000 or the Robbery Division during business hours (619) 531-2299.”

At the LJTC meeting, he elaborated, “These people are targeting you by watching you and taking advantage of opportunities. (Regarding the La Jolla robberies) we are very close to getting someone in custody. But to keep you safe: Be aware of your surroundings and if you have a feeling that someone is watching you, don’t put yourself in a position where you could become a victim.”

Thefts during the holidays

Hesselgesser said this is especially important advice during the holidays when thieves look for unattended deliveries left on porches or shopping bags left in cars. As safety precautions, police have advised residents to observe vehicles following delivery trucks, keep shopping bags out of sight and require signatures for deliveries. 

Given the recent rash of home invasions, one meeting attendee asked about safety tips on Halloween, citing concern over opening front doors to people you don’t know, many wearing masks or costumes. 

Daun advised: “It comes down to personal choice. If you feel safe turning off your lights and not opening the door for trick-or-treaters, do that. If you feel safe knowing most of the people that come to your door are kids looking to have a good time, go from there. If something makes you feel uneasy, don’t open the door.” 

A thank you to police 

At the end of the police presentation to the Town Council, Kerr Bache presented the officers with an award to thank them for their service. She was joined by representatives from the La Jolla Town Council Community Watch Committee, which formed to exchange information among Neighborhood Watch captains and report on area trends. Their findings are posted at lajollatowncouncil.com

La Jolla Town Council next meets 5 p.m. Thursday Nov. 10 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. The guest speaker will be State Assemblymember Toni Atkins. lajollatowncouncil.com

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