San Luis Obispo residents should be on the lookout for suspicious activity in their neighborhood as home and car burglaries continue to increase throughout the city, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
Residential burglaries increased by 20. 3 percent in 2015 over 2014, while thefts rose by 29.6 percent, and car break-ins were up by 43.6 percent, police Capt. Keith Storton said.
The department didn’t have 2016 statistics on thefts available, but police are seeing increasing incidents of burglary and larceny in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Several times per year, thefts from cars are reported in sections of the city where thieves sweep through, targeting 10 to 15 vehicles at a time, Storton said. The criminals often are looking for unlocked vehicles or valuable items left in plain view inside the car.
And home burglaries and thefts throughout the city continue to increase in 2016 after police reported a spike in property crimes last year.
“We encourage anyone who thinks they may be witnessing suspicious activity to share that information with one another and report it to police,” Storton said. “Even if you’re not sure or think you may be wasting our time, it’s best to let us know.”
On June 16, Ferrini Heights resident Mila Vujovich-La Barre reported a break-in at her home while no one was there.
About 12:20 p.m. that day, the burglars stole an estimated $19,000 worth of electronics and personal items, including a MacBook computer, jewelry and a box of family photos the burglars may have mistaken for valuable trinkets.
I’m not the same trusting person I was two weeks ago. That has made me very sad.
Mila Vujovich-LaBarre, Ferrini Heights resident
Vujovich-La Barre said that she had been regularly leaving the back door open so her dog could get in, but now she keeps all doors and windows locked when nobody’s home. She also is installing a home security system and a dog door.
“Being a victim of a crime changes who you are,” Vujovich-La Barre said. “I’m not the same trusting person I was two weeks ago. That has made me very sad.”
Vujovich-La Barre said the department is investigating the crime conscientiously. A partial license plate number was obtained by a neighbor who saw an unusual vehicle parked outside her home, a white or light silver sedan.
Vujovich-La Barre also said a drone was flown around the neighborhood in the days before the invasion.
“You’d think that most people use drones for fun as a hobby,” Vujovich-La Barre said. “But what if drones are used to investigate whether people are at home?”
Several neighborhood meetings in recent weeks have been hosted by San Luis Obispo police. Storton said authorities are assessing whether the rash of burglaries may be a side effect of Proposition 47, which converted many nonviolent offenses, including drug and property crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors.
The change in the law in 2014 may have contributed to more drug users on the streets supporting their habit through stealing valuables, Storton said.
Is the leniency on sentencing and the decriminalization of some types of crimes leading to more burglary and theft?
San Luis Obispo Police Capt. Keith Storton
Assembly Bill 109, jail realignment legislation, effective in 2011, mandated that nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual offenders be sentenced to San Luis Obispo County Jail to relieve crowding in state prisons. That change also may be playing a role, Storton said.
“This is being analyzed statewide,” Storton said. “Is the leniency on sentencing and the decriminalization of some types of crimes leading to more burglary and theft?”
Storton recommends locking doors and windows, not leaving valuable items in plain view in cars or homes and keeping neighborhood awareness to prevent break-ins. Alarm systems may help, too.
The department provides crime-related information through the website www.nextdoor.com, a social network for neighborhoods, and Cal Poly Professor John Seng created a new notification system called SLO Crime Tracker, which sends emails the day after reported police activity within a specified radius of the address that the user establishes for alerts.
“Security systems are very sophisticated now,” Storton said. “You can even install a camera on your doorbell, which detects motion and automatically sends an alert to your phone when someone is at the door. You don’t even need to be at home to know who’s there.”