by Sam Catanzaro
In a newsletter from February 3rd, Councilman Mike Bonin’s office wrote that a “prolific car burglary ring” was busted by the Pacific Division with the help of 12 new officers assigned to the area by the LAPD. The Pacific Division, however, told Yo! Venice this description is a bit of an exaggeration: the culprits were two homeless individuals who were found with the keys on them to a truck that they did not own.
What was not mentioned in the newsletter was that no criminal charges were filed, and the two individuals were released and presumably returned to Venice.
“The District Attorney did not file any criminal charges against the homeless individuals based on the fact that their statements said that they got their keys from a friend of theirs. The D.A. said that this would be too hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Lieutenant Randy Goddard, a Detective Commanding Officer for the Pacific Division. “If they are homeless they typically go back to where they are comfortable. So, if they are from Venice and are comfortable, it is more than likely that they will return there.”
Despite this, Goddard says the public should not worry about their car being stolen. With the help of the 12 new officers, the Pacific Division was able to create a new crime detail that focuses solely on auto-related crime. Composed of a sergeant plus six officers, this unit works from nine o’clock at night to seven in the morning, the peak hours for auto crime.
“We put them in locations where we are experiencing high levels of auto-related crime. So we are adjusting our missions and where we go based on where crime is occurring. That has been a tremendous help, and I anticipate motor vehicle crime and auto crime going down for 2018 by at least 5 percent,” Goddard said.
The new officers are part of Bonin’s “Back to Basics” plan for getting more cops in neighborhoods, pointing to statistics showing fewer patrol officers in neighborhoods than there were 50 years ago. Despite the fact that the population of Los Angeles has increased by more than one million people since 1969, there are in fact fewer patrol officers on the street today.
“Too often, I hear from constituents that they rarely see a patrol car in their neighborhood, or that it takes LAPD too long too long to respond to an emergency call,” Bonin said in a press release. “LAPD’s leaders must improve how they allocate resources to get more patrol units in neighborhoods.”
No matter how many new patrol officers come to Venice, not every car theft can be caught, and Goddard says the best prevention is to use common sense. One of the main ways cars get stolen in Venice is due to people simply leaving the keys in their car.
“We are seeing a lot of people leaving their keys in the car because they either tandem park and live in a subterranean garage or live in an area where they have to park their car behind another car,” Goddard said. “Criminals will come up and door-check the vehicles. If the vehicle is unlocked, they are going to rummage through the vehicle to see if they can find anything of value to steal. If they come across the key fob or if they press the button that starts the car and the car starts, well now they have a car to go with it.”
Even for people who don’t leave the keys in their car, Goddard says that anything of value should be hidden from plain view, even something as simple as a charging cord.
“People will see that cord and think ‘hey, maybe that cord is going somewhere’ and they will break the window to go after the phone. So just keeping those things out of view really makes a huge difference,” Goddard said.