With property crime on the rise and legislation that prevents harsher penalties for criminals, Westminster police are educating residents on how they can avoid becoming a victim with awareness and simple safety measures.
WPD has launched the public safety campaign, “Hide, Lock, Take,” with signs posted throughout the city to remind residents to always lock their cars, hide items or take valuables out of their vehicles.
Westminster Officer Steve Booth said malls, gyms and shopping centers are often hotspots for this type of crime.
“Anywhere there is a good likelihood that people are going to be away from their car for a couple of hours is a potential target,” Booth said. “Sometimes burglars will park and wait.”
But some of the more common burglaries Westminster police are seeing lately are occurring in people’s own front yards.
“A lot of these crimes are happening because some people just don’t lock their vehicles at night,” Booth said. “They think they live in a nice neighborhood and get complacent.”
Burglars sometimes will walk a neighborhood and simply check door handles, making for a quick crime that is difficult for police to investigate.
Some of the most common items taken include cell phones, money, GPS systems and computers, Booth said.
“Sometimes we will get five or 10 of these in a neighborhood overnight,” he said.
Westminster is not alone in seeing an increase in this crime and other burglaries — it is affecting cities across Southern California.
Westminster Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze said recent legislation has made penalizing offenders more difficult, impacting property crime rates.
Proposition 47, which reduces the penalties on some crimes including grand theft, forgery and illegal drug use, is contributing to the trend, Knauerhaze said.
“Some would argue that it’s too soon to draw a correlation, but with these types of propositions that are being enacted, where criminals are back on the streets almost immediately, we’re seeing a lot of the same criminals re-offend,” Knauerhaze said. “We’ve also seen the amount of warrant arrests increase.”
Westminster police are asking for the public’s help to discourage crime in their own neighborhoods by being alert, aware and proactive.
Residents should protect their personal items and also watch out for their neighbors and report anything suspicious to police.
“For every great program that we have, or every criminal we take off the street, we’re being challenged with these laws that aren’t helping the community,” Knauerhaze said. “In the spirit of community policing, we need the public’s help to fight crime.”