The recent arrest of an Oakland man in connection with vehicle break-ins all throughout the San Ramon Valley may serve as a wake-up call for area residents in keeping their valuables safe.
Danville Police Chief Chris Wenzel said a traffic stop on Dec. 22, reported that week in the Danville Express, began an investigation which led to the recovery of over 125 purses, more than 400 articles of ID and credit cards, laptops, cameras and other assorted electronic devices stolen out of vehicles during the past two years.
"For Danville and the rest of the valley, property crimes are getting to be a serious problem," Wenzel said. "The items that are being stolen are usually in plain view, left on a seat or a console."
Town statistics showed that in 2009 there were 136 vehicle burglaries, up from 119 in 2008. In many cases, the items stolen were left out in plain view.
"We're a very safe city," Wenzel stated. "One of the safest in the county. We just need to be more careful in locking our cars and not leaving valuable items out in the open where they can be seen."
Wenzel added that because of the low crime rate and the easy availability of items left in autos, Danville is beginning to get a reputation among criminals. This, in turn, leads to offenders from throughout the area coming to the San Ramon Valley.
"Criminals network," Wenzel said, "and if they find an area where it's 'easy pickings,' they'll keep coming back and bringing more and more of that bad element into town."
Danville Detective Sgt. Allan Shields said that as property crimes have risen, the department has adjusted to meet the increased threat.
"We have pro-active patrols that target this specific type of crime," he explained. "We get officers out on the street and they will target areas that are seeing a lot of activity."
They are also looking at other means of combating the burglaries, such as using unmarked police vehicles and using patrol officers in late-night suppression operations. The downside is that these operations will require the use additional resources and man-hours.
Wenzel said that while they are being more aggressive in their pursuit of these would-be burglars, residents can have a great impact on the number of car burglaries just by exercising some caution.
1. Park in a well lit area
2. Lock all doors of the vehicle
3. Take valuable items into your home, or hide them under the seat or in the trunk
4. Be vigilant
Wenzel said exercising caution can go a long way toward curbing the tide of vehicle burglaries in the San Ramon Valley.
"I know it's inconvenient and takes a few minutes, but that's what crime prevention is all about. You want to make it difficult for the criminals to steal."