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Bird Rock businesses increasingly targeted by window-smashing and BB gun shootings

Windows at Be Seen Optics on La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock have been vandalized in recent months.
(Courtesy photo)

Representatives of the San Diego Police Department addressed a recent increase in vandalism at businesses along La Jolla Boulevard while residents expressed concern about insufficient lighting and safety issues it presents during the Bird Rock Community Council’s first meeting of the year Feb. 1.

In recent months, several Bird Rock businesses have been vandalized by seemingly random window-smashing. In some cases, a BB gun was used to damage windows.

For the record:

9:49 a.m. Feb. 3, 2022This article was updated to correct the spelling of Jesse Camen’s last name.

Be Seen Optics has been hit three times, optometrist Jesse Camen said — twice in August and once in January.

In August, Camen said, “on one night, two of our windows were hit with what looks like a BB gun. You could see little holes where the shatter points were. The next night, a third window was hit.”

She said two other businesses along La Jolla Boulevard were vandalized during the same period, and even more since.

In one of the most recent cases, “I saw some surveillance footage,” she said. "[The vandals] didn’t look like they were trying to get inside, it looked like they were just looking to cause damage. I saw these guys standing there for a few minutes after they broke the window, admiring their handiwork.”

Camen said there wasn’t enough light to capture a license plate number on their vehicle.

SDPD Community Relations Officer Ariel Del Toro confirmed there have been more occurrences than usual. “A lot of times, these are unfortunately crimes of opportunities,” she said. “We have been encouraging people to move their merchandise out of plain sight. … Installing alarms [triggered by] the glass break has been really beneficial because it notifies the alarm company, which notifies us.”

She also recommended installing cameras with a view of the front of the business.

San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Ariel Del Toro addresses the Bird Rock Community Council.
San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Ariel Del Toro addresses the Bird Rock Community Council during its Feb. 1 meeting online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The rising concern over crime in Bird Rock comes in the wake of several break-ins at businesses in La Jolla’s Village and a series of burglaries at La Jolla homes, many believed to be connected to a crime ring.

Staffing gains from large pay raises given in 2017 have been mostly reversed in recent months.

Camen told the La Jolla Light after the BRCC meeting that she would advocate for “anything that would deter this kind of vandalism,” including bringing more light and more businesses to La Jolla Boulevard, making it more popular “so these individuals don’t feel free to cruise and do what they want to do.”

“I would also want parents to talk to their kids about whether they know anyone that might be doing this,” she added. “We’re tired of having this expense of replacing the glass and the decals over and over again. We’ve started securing the merchandise in the back, which creates more work for the staff. We don’t want to do that; people should be able to walk by and see our products.”

Bird Rock Merchants Group President Craig Bender agreed that lighting is insufficient on La Jolla Boulevard and said merchants feel unsafe. “Several of our businesses are women-owned and many do not feel comfortable walking to or from their business in the early morning and in the evening,” he said.

Amanda Walker, owner of the Studio Barre location in Bird Rock, said classes are held at 6 a.m. and consist predominantly of women. “A few months ago, when it was super dark in the morning, one of my instructors was teaching and … a man got in and she had to get him out. It was frightening. It doesn’t feel safe. We always have to talk about how we are going to leave if we have to leave by ourselves. More lighting would be amazing.”

Bender said “we tell merchants to keep porch lights on to help with lighting on the boulevard, but that is not enough. Everyone wants more lighting. We keep talking about it and nothing is getting done.”

He said vandalism would be reduced if the lighting were improved. “We need to work more diligently on that from a safety perspective.”

Residents across La Jolla have expressed frustration with streetlight outages, some of which have lasted more than a year, with little or no response from the city.

Other BRCC news

Discount app: After months of development, the BRCC’s merchant discount app went live at the beginning of the year, providing users with special deals at Bird Rock businesses. Anyone who is a BRCC member has access to the app.

“It was a big project, but the goal of the app is to garner local support for businesses and provide discounts to the places residents visit most,” Bender said. “There are 14 merchants currently on the app. The goal is to have 20 by the end of March.”

With promotions that change every quarter, enterprises from beauty salons and exercise studios to home repair services and retail stores are on the app.

Forward Street swale: Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District representative Barbara Dunbar said a drainage swale installed on La Jolla Boulevard at Forward Street has been successful in diverting rainwater to the nearby Midway Street storm drain, reducing flooding in the area. “It does appear to be working a lot better than what we had before,” she said.

The intersection often would flood after moderate to heavy rains, prompting residents to refer to the area as “Lake Forward.” The swale was installed in October.

Next meeting: The Bird Rock Community Council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, tentatively online. Learn more at birdrockcc.org. ◆