The La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) Community Watch Committee — an amalgamation of Neighborhood Watch chairpersons and others concerned with safety in La Jolla — gave their inaugural presentation during the Town Council’s Sept. 8 meeting at La Jolla Rec Center.
As LJTC president Ann Kerr Bache explained, “In informal conversations with the police, it kept coming across that they need help catching criminals, but cannot be at every Neighborhood Watch meeting or community advisory meeting. We thought we would make it easier on police so there is just one point of community contact. That’s why we formed this committee.”
The 16 members hail from La Jolla Shores to Bird Rock, La Jolla Farms to the Barber Tract, and held physical and digital meetings to evaluate criminal activity in La Jolla. The committee is co-chaired by residents Cynthia Chasan and Catharine Douglass.
“We heard people in La Jolla say, ‘I feel like crime is on the rise and I don’t see police officers anymore,’ ” Chasan claimed. “Sometimes people say, your perception is not my reality. But in this case, perception is reality.”
Pulling La Jolla crime statistics from the San Diego Police Department website, she reported there have been more residential burglaries in 2016 thus far, than the yearly average for the last 10 years. “And we had one last night, so that number is now higher,” she said.
As a possible cause, Chasan explained that in 2014, the state passed Proposition 47 which re-categorized crimes, shifting many drug-related offenses so they are no longer jail-able offenses — instead the offenders get tickets and remain on the streets.
Paraphrasing a Los Angeles Times article, Chasan added, “Most people who are addicted to crack and heroin generally do not maintain full-time jobs, and they need something to pay for their habit … they usually turn to burglarizing and stealing.”
She also said the perception of fewer police officers is also a reality, due to budget cuts, reduction in academy size, suspension of pay raises and more. Chasan reported in the City of San Diego, there are currently 13.7 officers for every 10,000 people served. In cities like Houston, the number jumps to 23.5; in New York 41.8 and in Las Vegas, an even 19.
“For our Northern Division — La Jolla, University City, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Clairemont Mesa, Bay Park and more — that means 4.4 officers for every 10,000 people served,” Chasan said.
Town Council trustee Charles Hartford said he sits on the SDPD Foundation Board. He commented, “The Police Department is keenly aware of retention challenges here in San Diego. And they are taking acts to rectify that, but there is still a long way to go.”
In terms of finding a solution, Chasan said the first step was to form the “think tank” to come up with the best options for La Jolla. “We are going to try and improve communications between San Diego Police Department and our committee; get all the Neighborhood Watch captains in La Jolla organized under one large umbrella so we can meet and work together; and work on nextdoor.com to follow up on leads to make sure when someone posts that something happened to their home or car, they move forward and also file a police report.”
Future plans include creating a map of crime trends by area, day and time of day. Chasan said they would start tracking statistics found on crimemapping.com and compile a database spanning six months.
The committee will also compile a list of all the areas covered by Neighborhood Watch programs, and work with areas that do not have such programs.
Following the presentation, Kerr Bache commended the committee for an “excellent” report.
A full Community Watch Committee report will be posted soon at lajollatowncouncil.org
In other LJTC news
No on Prop 57: Independent of the Community Watch Committee report, Chasan also gave a brief presentation on a proposition up for vote in November, hoping to bring it to the community’s attention.
Titled “The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” (aka Proposition 57), the amendment to the state constitution is intended to address overcrowding in prisons. It would require a judge to determine whether a minor, between ages 14 to 17 accused of certain felonies, would stand trial as an adult or a juvenile. It also places some of those who were tried and convicted as adults in similar situations to be eligible for early release.
In the context of the proposition, applicable felonies include forcible sex offenses in concert with another, discharge of a firearm into an inhabited or occupied building, carjacking while armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon, robbery and more.
“I encourage you to, not only take my word for it, but look it up and read up on it yourself,” Chasan said. “I recommend people read beyond the two-sentence synopsis, but really read into it when you go to vote. The only way we can fight this is to go to community groups and encourage people to educate themselves.”
Police captain to visit: The October LJTC meeting will also feature discussion on law enforcement and safety. Kerr Bache said San Diego Police Department Northern Captain Mark Hanten, along with any other officer who might be available, will be in attendance for a meet-and-greet and brief discussion, 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollatowncouncil.org