Car burglaries up over summer

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Residential burglaries stay same, but car theft rises despite special sheriff’s summer patrol team.

By Melissa Caskey / The Malibu Times

Sheriff’s officials reported an increase in car burglaries in Malibu in June, July and August, despite deploying a special summer patrol team to monitor populous beach areas.

But the number of residential burglaries remained identical to last summer, according to a report obtained from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department.

The department received 41 vehicle burglary and theft reports in Malibu during the summer months of June, July and August. In 2011, the department received 36 car burglary and theft reports, 14 percent less than this year. Eighteen residential burglaries and thefts in Malibu were reported in 2012, the same amount as last year.

This Labor Day weekend marked the end of the summer beach patrol’s work. Officials noted that most burglaries over the weekend occurred at “pocket” beaches in Malibu.

Detective Bureau Lieutenant David Thompson said the majority of vehicle burglaries happen because beachgoers who park on Pacific Coast Highway make one of many common mistakes.

“Too many people leave electronic devices visible,” Thompson said, such as iPods and portable GPS systems. “And if you park and walk away [to the beach], a burglar knows you’re not coming back for a few hours.”

In addition to added beach patrol, deputies often go undercover to monitor for potential break-ins or suspicious behavior. But law enforcement can only prevent so much, Thompson said. When he hears reports of burglars stealing purses or GPS devices being left out in a car, he said it can be difficult to prevent the theft.

“People don’t really help us help them,” he said. “Burglars don’t break into cars hoping to find something. They know there’s something there because it’s visible.”

As for the people committing the crimes, Detective Sergeant Hugo Mosquera said thieves will stake out popular surfing spots for surfers who utilize magnetic Hide-A-Key devices or hide their car keys on the wheel well or under a wheel. Surfers often don’t like to take keys with them, as remote-controlled keys could be damaged by the water.

To prey on potential victims, Mosquera said suspects often sit in cars with tinted windows, binoculars and reclined seats and spy from afar. Burglars frequently wait patiently for drivers to park, find a spot in the sand and jump in the water.

“That’s their job. To sit, lie and wait,” Mosquera said. “They have nothing but time to wait for you and get in the water.”

He recalled an incident where a suspect drove off with a stolen vehicle and then drove back as the car’s owner was filing a report with the sheriff’s. The victim said, “There goes my truck.”

Adding on to Thompson’s advice, Mosquera advised visitors to secure valuables in the trunk of their cars before parking.

“Some people, as they pull up into a parking lot, they open up their trunk and put stuff in there,” he said. “Well, too late, a suspect already saw you.”

Though the summer beach patrol is done for the year, the recent heat wave could keep driving crowds to Malibu’s beaches through September and October.

“In better weather, there’s more criminals out,” Thompson said.