Petty crime is on the rise a bit

Suspects could be druggies or even bored teenagers

ktanner@thetribunenews.comApril 25, 2013 

There has been “a bit of an uptick” in the number of calls responded to or initiated by sheriff’s deputies on the North Coast recently, Sgt. Stuart MacDonald, patrol supervisor for the area, told members of the North Coast Advisory Council April 17.

MacDonald said some of those calls are from foot patrols and checks by deputies in patrol vehicles as they check for potential thieves and burglars looking for likely targets … especially unlocked cars, homes and even businesses during the late night and early morning hours.

Lock those doors, MacDonald stressed. “The only time a door should be unlocked is when you’re going through it.”

Since March 1, The Cambrian’s Sheriff’s Log has included 15 reports filed about alleged petty or grand thefts in San Simeon and Cambria. Some of those cases may ultimately prove to be unfounded allegations, MacDonald said, but still...

Who’s doing it? “We know it’s not one group of people committing these thefts,” he said, but it is instead “varied groups and individuals,” including bored teens and those with drug habits to support.

Some stolen items can easily be resold for quick cash through online want-ad services, including iPods, smart phones, GPS devices, laptop and tablet computers and other electronics.

“Take your valuables inside, or if you must, put them in the trunk,” MacDonald said. Law enforcers recommend doing the latter before you get to your destination — because if the thief sees you hiding something valuable, you might just was well not have hidden it.

The most vulnerable time is when the vehicle is parked overnight in front of a home, MacDonald said. “‘Car shopping’ happens mostly between 2 and 5 a.m. …They get up in the middle of the night to go out and go through unlocked cars, which are most often in front of the owners’ homes at that time.”

A crime is designated as a theft when things are stolen from unlocked vehicles or buildings, he explained. Grand theft is when the value is $950 or more; anything less than that is considered a petty theft. The exception is anything taken directly from a person is considered grand theft, no matter what it’s value is.

Crimes are considered burglaries are when the criminal breaks in to take the items. When force is used or the criminal instills fear in the victim during the crime, those crimes are considered robberies.

MacDonald said the best weapons are locked doors and alert citizens willing to notify authorities when something just looks wrong or out of place. “We’re fortunate to live in places where many of us know our neighbors,” and therefore know when someone or something doesn’t fit.

Car-alarm systems can help, “even a fake blinking red light” that looks like an alarm, he said. “But it’s probably not necessary if you remember the simple steps of locking your doors and keeping valuables out of sight.”

And inside your house? “It’s most important to lock those doors when you’re home,” he said, eliciting surprised looks from some NCAC members. Stolen “property you can replace. But if you’re there when someone breaks in, you’re at risk.” And it’s best to plan for that kind of emergency before it happens.

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter.

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