Neighborhoods in East Whittier along the border between Los Angeles and Orange Counties are mobilizing after a recent rash of break-ins. Representatives of local law enforcement agencies will be on hand Saturday at a community meeting to describe the problem and explain to residents how they can help protect themselves and their property.
Resident Robert Summers will be there. He said someone smashed the driver’s window of his Firebird some time Monday night while it was parked on Tigrina Avenue by Rancho Starbuck Intermediate School. They stole $2400 worth of golf equipment.
Three weeks ago, he said, his next-door neighbor’s catalytic converter was cut off and taken, and another man, who lives on Tigrina a few blocks down, told Summers that his car had been broken into recently and several battery packs were taken.
Summers doesn’t think of the neighborhood as a high-crime area, but he believes there’s definitely been a sudden jump in crime.
Jean Wall of the Whittier County Community Coordinating Council (WCCCC) said the Council will hold a community meeting Saturday at 10 a.m. in the theater of the Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCUHS). Representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Whittier and La Habra Police Departments, the California Highway Patrol, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department will describe the problem, what they’re doing about it, and how residents can protect themselves and their property.
Wall said there have been incidents on Fireside Drive, Pounds Avenue, Tigrina Avenue, Larrylynn Drive, Maybrook Avenue, Grayling Avenue, and Richvale Drive, all in the southeast corner of unincorporated Whittier.
When I asked, Joe Eggleston, Director of Auxiliary Services at SCUHS whether there had been recent break-ins at the college, he replied “No comment,” adding that he will have more to say at Saturday’s meeting. Patricia Howell, Superintendent of Lowell Joint School District, said there have been no break-ins at nearby Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate School.
Cindy Knapp, a spokesperson for the La Habra Police Department, says that La Habra hasn’t noticed a crime spike in La Habra neighborhoods that border the area of concern in unincorporated Whittier, but they are sending a representative to the Saturday meeting.
Wall blames the crimes on the poor economy and the lack of precautions by residents.
“They’re so damned complacent,” she said. Everybody thinks, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.'”
One woman told her, “Oh, Jeannie, this don’t happen to us… Oh, wait a minute!” And then she told about a man she’d recently seen in her backyard. When he saw her watching him, he began to run. Another woman Wall talked to said her favorite jewelry had been stolen.
Burglars break in and “take everything they can,” according to Wall.
She hopes Saturday’s meeting will help enlighten people who believe that they live in a safe neighborhood and have nothing to worry about. “I’m the neighborhood watch captain, and I had no idea this was going on,” she said.
The area Wall describes is under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff. Lieutenant Al Reyes said that an analyst is pulling up crime data to calculate a percent increase, but the department isn’t waiting for numbers to take action. They believe there’s been a jump in crime in the area, so they’ve deployed several special assignment teams to look for drug users.
“A zero-tolerance approach to drugs has a direct effect on crime,” Reyes said.
He also thinks it’s important for residents to take protective measures. Lock your car and hide any valuables you leave in it, including your GPS device. Know your neighbors and know who doesn’t belong. If you’re leaving on vacation, make sure a trusted neighbor will pick up your papers and call 911 if a stranger is snooping around.
You can also report crimes anonymously through Crime Stoppers, said Reyes. Call 1-800-222-TIPS, text TipLA plus your tip to 274637, or report online at Crime Stoppers.
For more information you can attend Saturday’s meeting. The Crime Stoppers site also has crime prevention information here.