Smash-and-grab probe continuing in Bird Rock


Police chase leads as merchants beef up security

Police say they are following “some leads” but have no arrests in their continuing investigation of 11 smash-and-grab burglaries that have occurred along Bird Rock’s La Jolla Boulevard commercial district over the past 10 months.

The first case occurred Oct. 7, 2007, and the latest on July 21-22, said San Diego Police Lt. David Nisleit.

“We’ve had conversations with the community and merchants,” he said. “We’re constantly working on this.”

If nothing else, word is getting out that Bird Rock’s business district is in jeopardy from opportunistic criminals, a reality merchants are awakening to - and dealing with.

“We’re a bit vulnerable just by the nature of the area,” said Stephanie Whitlock, who had four purses snatched near the window of her shoe boutique at 5630 La Jolla Blvd. by burglars who actually broke into her store.

“There’s no lighting. It’s a quiet, bedroom community. Nobody’s out there early in the morning, no street sweepers or trash collectors. It does provide an opportunity for people (criminals) to figure out what times are the quietest and slowest - and take advantage of it.”

The break-in has caused Whitlock, who already has good locks, bars in the back and a store alarm, to look for additional ways to heighten store security.

“I’m looking into glass-protectant mesh or webbing where you can break the glass but not get through,” she said. “We still have some damage, but at least we don’t have stolen goods.”

Whitlock cautioned that store security devices are expensive and not entirely reliable. “Some people have gone to cameras and other things,” she said, “but it’s not deterring them enough from doing the smash-and-grabs.”

Crime has superseded traffic construction as the community’s number one concern now that the roundabout traffic project is complete, said Joe La Cava, Bird Rock Community Council president.

He said police have promised to step up surveillance in the area.

“It’s the retail merchants that have things in their stores that the criminal element is really interested in,” he said.

What can merchants do to counteract that? “A lot of self-help,” replied La Cava.

“Increase lighting in the front and rear of your stores. Move expensive merchandise further back into your store so it’s not so accessible. Leave your cash register drawer open so people can see there’s no money in it.”