By Mary O’KEEFE
Glendale police met with residents from the Crescenta Valley, including Sparr Heights and far north Glendale, on Monday night at the First Baptist Church of La Crescenta. Officers explained crime trends in the area, shared how law enforcement responds to certain situations, presented information about Proposition 47, and told residents what they can do to help support law enforcement. Glendale officer Abe Chung, Det. Kelly Kramer and North Area Commander Lola Abrahamian represented GPD. Sgt. Cynthia Gonzales was also on-site representing Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.-Crescenta Valley Station.
Through a PowerPoint presentation Chung showed how residents could track crime in the area through crimemapping.com. To find the types of crimes being committed in a specific neighborhood, a resident can just type in their zip code. Chung typed in zip codes in the Crescenta Valley area including the La Crescenta unincorporated area of Los Angeles County and pulled up statistics that covered the period from Nov. 1 to Monday, Dec. 21.
“As you can see… there are a lot of black boxes with broken cars and mask [icons]. Those are primarily property crimes,” he said. “That is quite a bit for about a two month period.”
The website depicts crimes using icons. For example, a broken car represents a car vehicle burglary, masks are residential burglaries, hypodermic needles depict drug arrests and purple vehicle icons are vehicle thefts.
“We haven’t narrowed it down to who is actually committing these crimes, but we are seeing a trend of nighttime burglaries,” he added.
The nighttime crimes appear to be occurring between 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. He explained that the area is still experiencing burglaries known as “knock knock burglaries.” These are when people knock on a resident’s door to see if anyone is home. If not, they then go to, normally, a back door and break into the home. The burglary is committed quickly and there is usually more than one suspect involved.
Chung told the audience that if they are home and hear a knock to answer the door. They do not have to open the door but should at least call through it and ask who is there and what they want. If the resident becomes suspicious they should call police or sheriffs.
“Ask them to please leave before I call the police,” Chung said.
Another crime in the area is the “yard guys.”
“A guy comes to your home and tells you he is working on your neighbor’s [adjacent] yard,” Chung said. The suspect then asks if he can look at the neighbor’s yard from the resident’s backyard.
“While [the man] talks to you for a few minutes, maybe try to sell you something, [another suspect] breaks into your home through your front door,” he said. “They will take off and you come back into a house that has been burglarized.”
Chung also spoke of identity-type thefts when someone calls claiming to be from the IRS and states that the resident is behind on their taxes and gives them an amount owed. The suspects claim that if the resident does not pay, usually through a Green Dot or some other type of money gram, the IRS will send inspectors to their home and arrest them.
He explained that the IRS normally sends letters first and rarely calls demanding money. He shared a story of how convincing these phone criminals can be.
“Unfortunately we had stopped a lady for speeding who was on her way to send money [through a Green Dot],” he said.
The woman had received a call and had already purchased a Green Dot card worth $5,000 and sent it to the fake IRS. She was on her way to purchase an additional $5,000 card to send it when the GPD stopped her.
Chung said the woman was terrified that agents were going to come to her home if she didn’t pay what they demanded. It took a couple of hours and convincing by the police before she believed it was a scam.
Utility company scams are another thing for residents to be aware of, Chung said. He advised anyone who gets a suspicious call or someone comes to their home claiming to be a Dept. of Glendale Water and Power or Southern California Edison worker and needs access to their home to contact the utility departments directly before complying.
If GWP sends a representative they will have identification, Chung said.
Prop 47 and how it has affected crime in the area was also covered.
“On Nov. 4, 2014 [California] voters passed a law called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” Chung said. “What would you think that would mean? We are going to keep schools safe, maybe hire more neighborhood cops, give schools more money… What Prop 47 actually did was change a lot of our felony crimes to misdemeanor crimes.”
According to the California Secretary of State website, Prop 47 requires a misdemeanor sentence rather than a felony sentence be handed down for certain drug possession offenses as well as petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks crimes when the amount involved is $950 or less. It also required resentencing for persons serving felony sentences for these offenses unless the court finds unreasonable risk of public safety.
Chung said currently there is no statistics to show that the increase in crime is due to Prop 47, but it is his personal belief, as is that of many others in law enforcement, that the change in the law has affected the overall crime rate.
If someone has heroin for his or her own personal use and the police stop him or her they give them a citation instead of arresting them. It is the same with shoplifting if what is stolen is valued under $950.
“There is a trickling down affect,” Chung observed. “What we have seen, from my experience, are these drug addicts don’t have jobs, so they shoplift, burglarize cars and homes [to support their drug habits].”
He did add that though there might be savings from Prop 47 that has not been determined yet by the state. The theory is fewer people incarcerated will save money for counties, cities and the state.
Abrahamian responded to a question from the audience concerning arrests of those found with drugs.
“It’s a revolving door,” she said of the arrest cycle of those addicted to drugs. The police may arrest addicts for anything from drug possession to theft, but they get out and steal again to support their habits. It is a cycle that continues in many cases no matter how many times the addicts are arrested.
“The entire criminal justice system is so over impacted. [Those arrested] may go to [rehabilitation] and they come out and go to use drugs again and commit a crime to support their addiction. They are arrested again then spend more time [in jail and] they come out and do the same [criminal] act,” she said. “That’s what I mean about revolving door.”
Many of the crimes that are occurring in Glendale are also in La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge.
Gonzales added that residents needed to be cautious when having items delivered to their home, especially during the holidays, because there are criminals who follow delivery trucks. They watch the worker deliver the boxes to the homes, then get out and take the delivery.
A Sparr Heights resident asked what he and his neighbors could do to help.
“It is great to hear the statistics but I want to be more proactive,” he said. “When I leave here I want to make a difference.”
In the last six months two vehicles were stolen from the Sparr Heights neighborhood. The residents want to do something to let neighbors know about crimes in the area.
Chung suggested Neighborhood Watch as the best way to be involved in the area. Abrahamian told the residents that there is already a Neighborhood Watch established in the Sparr Heights area; however, it is difficult to get anyone involved.
“So it sounds like you are fighting apathy and indifference,” said a resident.
To keep abreast of crime in the area, Chung sends out a monthly email that gives residents information on crime trends. He also has spoken at Neighborhood Watch meetings, a program many in law enforcement feel is the best way for neighbors to be proactive in fighting crime.
Anyone who sees something or someone suspicious can contact GPD at (818) 548-4911 or the CV Sheriff’s Station at (818) 248-3464. In an emergency call 911.