Police share anti-theft tips with La Jolla merchants board amid worries over break-ins

San Diego police Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift speaks to the La Jolla Village Merchants Association.
San Diego police Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift speaks to the La Jolla Village Merchants Association about ways to protect businesses from thefts.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Officer recommends security cameras, Neighborhood Watch programs, locking away ‘high value’ merchandise and emptying cash registers as ways for businesses to protect themselves.


Representatives of the San Diego Police Department attended the La Jolla Village Merchants Association meeting June 14 to address commercial break-ins in The Village that have going on the past two years.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick said “there have been some really serious burglaries and blatant shoplifting” and that the group is seeking ideas and strategies to share with its members.

This month, two La Jolla businesses were victimized. At the Second Act West resale clothing store on Girard Avenue, thieves used a baby carrier and children to distract an employee and stash stolen items while getting away with jewelry and at least one high-end bag.

A week later at Beeside Balcony, a Mediterranean restaurant on Prospect Street, a thief broke the outdoor lock box the restaurant has for deliveries, ripped out the cash register and left out the back door.

Earlier this year, two businesses on Prospect Street and one on Fay Avenue were targeted by what police believed were the same burglars.

Previously, the Bang & Olufsen high-end consumer electronics store on Girard Avenue accounted for four of 24 burglaries in The Village in 2021 and early 2022.

A window at La Jolla's Bang & Olufsen store is broken after a burglary in 2022.
A window at La Jolla’s Bang & Olufsen store is broken after a burglary in 2022.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Burglars also hit parked cars, storage units and other Village facilities in that time.

At the Village Merchants Association meeting, SDPD Northern Division Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift encouraged businesses to get security cameras to help protect their property.

“I don’t know which type of camera is better than the others,” she said, “but even something like a Ring camera goes a long way.”

She added that all merchandise of “high value” should be locked away when the business is closed and that “there shouldn’t be extra money in the cash register” for very long. She advocated making daily bank deposits of cash.

“We encourage businesses to leave the registers open” to show they have been emptied, Thrift said. “It’s always the closed safes or registers that thieves go for. If they are closed, even if they are empty, thieves think they are full.”

Thrift also advocated the use of Neighborhood Watch programs. Many already are in place in residential areas, and they can be started for business communities as well.

“You are just looking for a small group that are willing to look out for each other,” she said. “And we say, if you see something, say something.”

For information or assistance in setting up a Neighborhood Watch group, contact Thrift at
or (858) 552-1631.

“It’s always the closed safes or registers that thieves go for. If they are closed, even if they are empty, thieves think they are full.”

— Jessica Thrift, San Diego police community relations officer

Thrift said La Jolla has lower crime statistics compared with the greater San Diego area but noted the spate of local commercial burglaries and a well-publicized series of residential burglaries that has hit many spots throughout San Diego County, including La Jolla.

Police announced in January 2022 that members of a South American crime ring had been burglarizing houses, many in La Jolla’s Muirlands area, during the previous six months. The Northern Division said it allocated additional resources to the area, including plainclothes officers and a detective on a task force to follow leads. It also authorized overtime for officers and stationed them in targeted areas so they could quickly respond to alarms.

Burglaries believed connected to the crime ring have continued sporadically since.

Though some arrests have been made in connection with burglaries believed linked to the ring, the suspects in most cases post bail and are released, after which they disappear and “someone else steps in to take their place,” San Diego police Lt. Paul Phillips said in March.

This week, three people — a Riverside County man and a man and a woman from Los Angeles County — were arrested on suspicion of stealing guns, jewelry and cash from 26 upscale homes in a string of break-ins in neighborhoods across northern San Diego — from Carmel Valley to Scripps Ranch — between Feb. 10 and May 23, police said. All three were arraigned June 15 on burglary and conspiracy charges and pleaded not guilty.

The San Diego County district attorney’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether the case has any connection to La Jolla.

Catharine Douglass, a La Jolla community volunteer and Neighborhood Watch coordinator, said one of the lessons learned from the South American theft ring is that safes need to be properly affixed and protected.

“I’m sure a lot of these businesses have safes … but safes can be attached to drywall or a wooden stud, and it only takes a saw to cut through [and extract the safe],” she said. “You need a really strong safe, not just one from [a store]. I hate to see merchants think their safes are really safe.”

Brett Murphy, co-owner of Mermaids & Cowboys restaurant, said he thinks police have been doing a “phenomenal job.” When Mermaids & Cowboys’ alarm was tripped recently, “the police were there before we even got there,” he said.

Rudick said LJVMA is looking to hold a virtual forum for business owners to share options for protection from theft. Details of the meeting are to be announced.

“We want to make sure we are having these conversations … even if it is virtual, so merchants that cannot be here [in person] can participate,” Rudick said.

— The San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.