At the Jan. 14 La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) meeting, San Diego Police Department Lt. Scott Wahl updated the board and attendees on recent efforts taken to stop drug-related crimes in beach communities. Their work helped establish a connection between these drug crimes and burglaries — typically from vehicles in the area.
“We had, for the last couple of months, an undercover operation that was in Pacific Beach, up to Bird Rock,” he said. “There were 17 different people whom we were successfully able to buy drugs from — 15 of those subjects have been arrested and nine have already pleaded guilty.”
Part of the operation involved using “bait bikes” — bikes with tracking devices installed on them — that were placed in locations police believed appealing to thieves. When these bikes were stolen, the tracking device would activate and police followed them to identify the riders.
“We’ve been very successful doing that last year ... One significant arrest shows the nexus between the crime (stealing) and the drugs because one of the individuals we arrested had a dozen credit cards in his pocket (taken from burglarized vehicles),” Wahl said.
Building on that success, Wahl said San Diego Police’s Northern Division (which includes La Jolla) is looking at expanding the program to place tracking devices on other bait items.
Regarding armed robberies
To address the series of armed commercial robberies in the Village since mid-December, plain clothes officers have been stationed in the Village seven days a week, Wahl told LJSA. These officers are assigned in the evenings to commercial areas, hoping to catch the burglars in the series of recently connected robberies.
The Beach Team, typically assigned to beach areas during the summer months, has also been called up to assist detectives in their investigation. Since Dec. 16, 2014, two (sometimes three) suspects identified as “tall, adult, black males ages 20-30, between 5-foot-7-inches to 6-feet tall, with a thin to heavy build, usually wearing dark colored clothing, including hooded sweatshirts pulled up to their faces, and usually armed with a silver or dark-colored handgun” robbed several La Jolla businesses, as well as businesses across San Diego.
Panhandling to legislative forefront
Lt. Adam Sharki — who will take over from Lt. Wahl as a police representative at LJSA meetings starting next month — reported that in La Jolla and Bird Rock, “quality of life” issues are the most prevalent.
“In some other areas of the city; violent crimes are the big tickets,” Sharki said. “But in La Jolla, you see a lot of these issues with homeless people sleeping on bridges, panhandling on medians or leaving trash around.”
Sharki said new legislation currently in the works, which addreses people standing on medians begging for food or money, would give the City of San Diego the ability to enforce panhandling as it sees fit.