Local residents were clamoring to learn how to protect their valuables from crooks, burglars, petty thieves and robbers at a police department Town Hall meeting Thursday.
Ninety three percent of all crime in the LAPD Devonshire Division, which includes Chatsworth and surrounding communities, is property crime, according to police statistics.
Capt. Kris Pitcher, who began as commanding officer of the Devonshire station last week, said Devonshire is the second out of 21 stations throughout Los Angeles with the best overall reduction in crimes.
Pitcher said there were 700 fewer crime victims so far this year compared to all of 2010. He also said Devonshire was No. 2 out of 21 in property crimes, which is down by 18 percent.
“Our biggest challenge is property crimes, not violent crimes,” Pitcher told the crowd of 250 that gathered at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch.
Detective Stefanie Diaz presented a video about ways to safeguard valuable personal property and reduce crime in the precinct.
“You and we can reduce the crime, and you won’t be fearful,” said Diaz who has been on the force for 17 years, eight as a detective.
As of October 2008, there were 219,136 people living in the Devonshire area, which is 51.3 square miles. It is home to 250 officers, 200 of whom are on active duty. Of those 200, about 50 are detectives and the remaining 150 officers cover the area 24 hours, seven days a week.
“It difficult. We need your help in combating crime trends,” Diaz said.
Neighborhood Watch Meets Sept. 22
- Where: , 9901 Mason Ave.
- Date: Thursday, Sept. 22
- Time: 7 - 8 p.m.
- The Neighborhood Watch meets every fourth Thursday of the month.
Diaz presented a video depicting several scenarios of how quickly crimes can happen and what steps can be taken to prevent them.
For example, distraction theft took place in a supermarket.
A female shopper left her purse open and in full sight. She was distracted by one criminal as the other lifted her wallet behind her back.
Diaz suggested that shoppers keep their valuables close and zipped to their bodies and stay aware of their surroundings.
She said sometimes a situation will present itself and one should go with their “gut” feelings, because most times they are right.
“It only takes a few seconds to be distract, and it only takes a few seconds for a criminal,” she said.
She also said taking a minute or two out of one’s busy schedule could make a difference in deterring a criminal.
Diaz said it wasn’t smart to flash cash and valuables in public, because a criminal could be lurking nearby and watching your every step.
Some may be bold enough to follow you home.
Vehicles with valuables inside are ripe targets for burglars, along with homes and businesses that have an open window or door and no one there to thwart criminal activity.
“Don’t leave valuable things in plain sight,” Diaz said.
She also said oftentimes people think they will pop into a store for “only five minutes,” leaving their car windows down and their doors
“Secure your car, place your valuables in your trunk out of sight and park in a well lighted area,” Diaz said.
LAPD’s theme, “Lock it, Hide it, Keep it” can serve everyone well, crime experts said.
Diaz said in terms of homes, it was a good idea to get to know your neighbors, report out of place activity and people, and be suspicious
about delivery men who could be criminals in disguise.
“We wish we can be everywhere especially when we are needed, but we can’t. We have to rely on you, neighbors, so be a good neighbor,” she said. “Pay attention.”
During a brief question-and-answer period Lt. Tim Torsney said burglars enter homes and businesses through unlocked doors and windows in the front or back. In other cases they just break in.
The “Knock-Knock” burglars, as police refer to them, approach houses and if no one answers the door they’ll steal valuable possessions.
Torsney said if someone comes to your door and you don’t want to be bothered, just tell them, “No thanks,” and hopefully they’ll go away.
Thieves are mostly the opportunistic types and go for the crime that’s easiest to pull off.
Torsney strongly suggested that people do not throw their important documents in the trash, but shred them instead.
He reported on recent gang arrests, a topic of the next Town Hall meeting to be held in October.
“Overall in the city, gang crime is down, but we need to do a better job … with prevention and keeping people from finding comfort in those types of groups,” Torsney said.
Rod DeSmith of North Hills and Virginia Snow of Granada Hills attended the meeting.
Both said it was very informative and covered good subjects.
"And, we have an excellent new captain,” Snow said. “He’s very enthusiastic and people appreciate that.”
Chatsworth residents, Helen Murphy and Diane Bateson, said they were glad to see so many people in attendance.
"That’s very good. I like the new captain (Pitcher),” Murphy said. “He’s very personable.”
Bateson said she hopes the Town Hall meetings will continue to draw large crowds.
“Last time only five rows were filled,” she added.