By Captain Anthony LaBerge
It’s time to touch base again and talk about some of the trends, concerns, challenges, and successes we’ve seen in the first six months of 2009. As you know, it is my philosophy that the better informed our deputies and the community are, the more efficiently and effectively we can work together to keep our community safe.
As I mentioned in my April message, I was concerned there would be an increase in certain areas of crime based on an ailing economy and the crime increases that have traditionally come with that. Unfortunately, our preliminary analysis for the first six months of 2009 has validated that concern. We have seen incremental changes in burglary, robbery, and assaults in many areas of the Santa Clarita Valley. The most notable increases in the City of Santa Clarita were seen in the areas of Assault at (+35.7%) and Burglary (+17.7%). The most notable in the unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley were in the areas of Robbery (+35.7%) and Burglary (+47.9%). Conversely, incidents of Theft and Grand Theft Auto combined were down in the city by more than 26%. Assault incidents in the unincorporated Santa Clarita Valley decreased by nearly 8%, while Grand Theft Auto incidents are down 21.9%.
Indications are that things could have been worse if not for the proactive efforts of deputies and residents throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. Many other areas throughout the southland have seen similar increases. However, your efforts and Neighborhood Watch strategies have led to a number of success stories and the immediate apprehension of more than 200 suspected burglars. Residents in the Fair Oaks Ranch area of Canyon Country got directly involved in sending a “Not In My Neighborhood” message to criminals. Actively working with the sheriff’s station, their eyes and ears led to arrests of residential burglars on three separate occasions in May. Since that time, the area has seen a substantial reduction in reported incidents of burglary.
My staff also developed and launched a Vacant House Check program back in January in anticipation of the housing market downturn. The program was implemented as part of our approach towards best protecting our community and reducing the likelihood of dilapidated properties harboring criminals. If you are aware of a vacant or abandoned structure in your neighborhood or business community that appears to be run-down or attracting a criminal element, simply fill out our on-line request form right here on SCVSheriff.com and we will check it out. Working together during these challenging times we can and have made a difference.
Your Station’s Community Interaction Team (CIT) and the Countywide Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) have conducted 50 covert burglary suppression and saturation operations in neighborhoods throughout the Santa Clarita Valley beginning early this year. Still other operations involving paseo bicycle patrols and our T3 electric personal mobility devices have led to a number of arrests. I believe we are now beginning to see the impact of these efforts, and that of our residents and deputies, as reported incidents of burglary have slowed considerably recently.
Although we have seen the above noted increases, there are some very positive statistics to report pertaining to gang-related crimes, juvenile crimes, and our traffic here in the valley. Virtually every category of gang-related crime has decreased in the Santa Clarita Valley. Gang-related robberies are down nearly 17%, gang-related assaults are down more than 37%, and gang-related vandalism (including graffiti) are down 24%, in comparison to the same time frame last year. I attribute much of the success in reduction of gang-related crimes to aggressive operations involving our station and city personnel, and a number of resources from throughout Los Angeles County. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station’s Detective Bureau, the City of Santa Clarita/Sheriff’s COBRA Unit and the Community Interaction Team (CIT), the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) North County Crime Impact Team, and the Countywide COPS Team assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley have all come together on a weekly basis to conduct proactive crime prevention operations throughout Santa Clarita. They have also worked in direct partnership with United States Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation, and officials from the California Department of Corrections on a number of probation and parole compliance operations. The operations are coordinated as part of our station’s ongoing effort to ensure convicted felons living in the valley are in compliance with the terms and conditions of their probation and parole, after their release from county jail or state prison.
Arrests for juvenile crime, including rape, robbery, theft, curfew and truancy are at three year lows, indicating that juvenile crime is on the decline. We have seen fewer traffic accidents in the City of Santa Clarita in 2009. At this time last year we had seen 988 traffic collisions and this year that number is down to 874. We have also had one fewer traffic related fatality. New traffic enforcement patrol vehicles have been deployed and they seem to be having a positive impact on driving habits and collision reduction efforts. Driving under the influence collisions have increased, as have D.U.I. arrests so far this year. Motorcycle collisions are down 32% in 2009. Sheriff’s and City officials launched an aggressive Motorcycle Safety Campaign in April of this year in an effort to improve safety and awareness.
With the opening of a modern state-of-the-art Detective Bureau on May 21, 2009, Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Detectives are better equipped to investigate crimes, protect our residents and address growing law enforcement demands. The new office space is a result of Sheriff Baca’s visit to our station in November of 2007 when he saw the state of the Detective Bureau’s work area. Sheriff Baca came away from the visit with a mission to replace the existing Detective Bureau. He did just that and the new facility is now home to the entire Detective Bureau, as well as the station’s COBRA and Community Interaction (CIT) Teams, our Crime Analyst and Detective Bureau secretaries. Future phases of the station renovation project are planned to include an expansion of secretariat and support staff areas of the station and our front desk dispatch center to include additional call stations to give us the room and resources to handle ever-increasing calls for service.
Summer heat means more people are out in the evening, more cars are on our roadways, there are more social gatherings, parties and celebrations, and less school related responsibilities for our youth. Remember, celebrate responsibly and don’t drink and drive. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to more than 3,500 calls regarding loud music and large parties disturbing the public peace in 2008. Already this year we have responded to more than 2,300. Every weekend we have to devote two patrol cars just to monitor and shut down loud parties. We would like to remind you to be cognizant of your neighbors and their right to peace. Be aware of where your teenagers are, who they are with, and what their activities are.
Home safety is also crucial, especially with young children around the swimming pools. Already this year we have responded to several calls where young children have been involved in water related emergencies. In fact, despite valiant life saving efforts by family members, Los Angeles County Fire Department Paramedics, and Santa Clarita Deputies, a 3-year-old child was tragically lost to a drowning incident in Newhall in June. Even those who know how to swim should be closely supervised as tragic accidents can still occur. Don’t let water floatation devices give you a false sense of security. Find water and other safety tips right here on our Website. The City of Santa Clarita offers a variety of pool safety courses for adults and children of all ages and experience levels. Visit www.santa-clarita.com/seasons for more information on swim lessons. Other important safety tips for summer include never leaving your pets or children in hot cars and a reminder that we should always pay special attention to the elderly as the weather heats up. Also, consider brush clearance and evacuation plans before we move into the heavy fire danger season.
National Night Out 2009 – America’s Night Out Against Crime is Tuesday, August 4th from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Old Orchard Park in Valencia. National Night Out is a nationwide crime and anti-drug awareness event. I encourage each of you to come and join us so we can all talk about issues pertaining to community safety and send a message that we stand together against crime. You can contact Sergeant Gregg Lewison of our Community Relations staff at (661) 799-5158 for additional information or to get involved with the event.
On behalf of all the staff at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, I want to wish everyone a safe, productive, and relaxing summer season. Remember, preventing crime in Santa Clarita is everyone’s business and responsibility – “If You See Something – Say Something”. Non-emergency crime tips can be reported anonymously at this link: SCVSheriff.com or by calling (661) 284-2-TIP (661-284-2847).
Captain Anthony La Berge
Chief of Police for the City of Santa Clarita