La Jolla Village merchants consider crime deterrents

Business group discusses formation of a Neighborhood Watch

During the Jan. 14 meeting of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), trustees discussed the recent rash of commercial burglaries and street robberies in the Village — something board member Glen Rasmussen said he believes is unprecedented in La Jolla.

“I’ve lived in the Village for 40 years and I don’t remember a recurrence of crimes like this by similarly described perpetrators,” he said. “To have a string like this is not good for business. … We need to be as proactive as we can to increase police presence.”

Rasmussen, who is board chair of La Jolla Community Center, said the center recently installed security cameras as a deterrent to would-be thieves.

“We worked with a local security firm and purchased the cameras and we feel a lot safer,” he said. “The technology is improving so rapidly. It’s actually pretty cheap to get a few cameras placed around your business that would aid in apprehending these people.”

LJVMA trustee Claudette Berwin of Gallery Properties said her office installed “strategically placed” cameras after it was vandalized 18 months ago. “They are so inexpensive (and) you can get them at Costco,” she said. “It was just a no-brainer. … If everybody had those, it might send a message saying, ‘Not here.’ ”

Fellow trustee Billy Borja reported an attempted robbery this month at the Coin Shop on Girard Avenue, adjacent his business, Orangetheory Fitness.

“Luckily, they were not able to penetrate the locks on the facility,” Borja said, “but they did some (extensive) damage there.”

Borja suggested merchants advise employees not to walk alone at night, and always avoid taking shortcuts down alleys. As an added precaution, he said he staffs two employees at night to lock up his business.

“As merchants I think we need to be vigilant,” Borja said. “If you see anything suspicious, don’t just shrug it off like it’s nothing. Call the non-emergency (police) … line.” The number is (619) 531-2000.

LJVMA executive director Sheila Fortune said she has also warned restaurant owners to have employees follow the buddy system when leaving at night.

“We take for granted that we live in this beautiful, safe environment and one of our advantages is to be able to walk around and not really think about those things,” Fortune said.

Board members say they may organize a Neighborhood Watch group in the future to keep the Village business district safer.