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San Diego police discuss safety amid concerns about La Jolla burglaries, summer and Shores attack

Police Lt. Rick Aguilar and Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift address the La Jolla Shores Association on June 8.
San Diego police Lt. Rick Aguilar and Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift address the La Jolla Shores Association meeting June 8 online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Representatives of the San Diego Police Department were on hand at various La Jolla planning group meetings this week to address everything from ongoing residential burglaries to a recent attack on a woman in La Jolla Shores.

Here’s what some groups asked San Diego’s men and women in blue.

Bird Rock Community Council

SDPD Lt. Rick Aguilar and Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift spoke at the June 7 Bird Rock Community Council meeting, taking questions centered largely on a recent string of home burglaries in the nearby Muirlands area and additional summer law enforcement.

Police have linked the burglaries to a “sophisticated” South American crime ring. Capt. Scott Wahl said during a Jan. 21 community meeting that there had been 56 residential burglaries in La Jolla in the preceding six months, 18 of which were believed connected to the crime ring. As a result, the Police Department’s Northern Division deployed additional resources to the area, including plainclothes officers and a detective on a task force to follow leads.

Aguilar said June 7 that four to six burglaries have taken place in the past three months that are believed connected to the crime ring.

Officers are continuing to work undercover and overtime, he said, but the area can be “vulnerable” when officers attend to other incidents nearby, such as reports of loud and potentially dangerous gatherings at the Camino de la Costa viewpoint in the Lower Hermosa neighborhood.

BRCC President John Newsam said that as summer approaches, “we get a lot more visitors, which we welcome, but it also comes with some concerns.”

Aguilar said lower-than-desired staffing levels mean “we have to get the entire city involved when it comes to having the beaches safe for people to come visit and for the residents that are here.”

He said the Police Department asked the chief to have officers work 12-hour shifts during the Fourth of July weekend from Friday, July 1, through the morning of Tuesday, July 5.

“When the officers start their shift, that is going to allow us to pull our second watch officers, which work between 2 p.m. and midnight, to come to the beach areas,” Aquilar said.

A similar strategy was used over the Memorial Day weekend and yielded an additional 75 officers at the coast from other divisions. When approximately 10 to 12 supplemental officers are stationed in La Jolla, they patrol La Jolla Shores, Marine Street Beach, Windansea, Bird Rock and Coast Walk.

“We’re going to do a lot of enforcement, making sure everyone out here is safe … and educating people as well,” Aguilar said.

After hearing from two supporters of the “PrOTECT Act,” a proposed measure that aims to put new limits on police power in San Diego, the La Jolla Town Council voted June 9 to send a letter to San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava opposing it.

La Jolla Town Council

Lt. Brian Avera spoke at the June 9 La Jolla Town Council meeting, offering tips on staying safe.

Referring to the string of burglaries, he said “a lot of us will turn on lights when we’re home, but when we’re not home, those lights don’t go on. So that can be an indicator.”

In some cases, he said, thieves will knock on the door to confirm that no one is home before breaking in through the back.

He also provided safety tips for when out walking, in light of an attack on a 59-year-old woman as she walked on the sand at La Jolla Shores around 5 a.m. June 3.

San Diego police are hoping someone can help identify a man who ambushed a 59-year-old woman as she walked on the sand at La Jolla Shores last week, seriously beating her — including with her own cane — then running off.

“I think it’s always safe to walk in pairs,” Avera said. “Pay attention to what time of day it is. Usually it’s a rule of thumb that when it’s dark outside, there seems to be an increased frequency of crime that happens out there. … Something that everyone can do [is carry] a whistle or heavy flashlight.”

He also suggested not wearing headphones or wireless earbuds in both ears at the same time so you can hear what’s going on around you. ◆